Suffolk County police officers are responding to a serious, fiery accident involving multiple vehicles that has closed the Long Island Expressway in both directions this afternoon.
The fiery crash, near Yaphank and Shirley on Long Island, involves at least 15 to 20 cars, trucks, and other vehicles and has shut down the Long Island Expressway for miles in both directions, Suffolk County police told Newsday. At least one person, who has not been identified, died in the crash.
Gregory Miglino Jr. of the South County Ambulance service told Newsday that the accident caused about a-half dozen critical injuries and said the crash is the worst he’s seen in his 22 years on the job.
The eastbound lane of the Long Island Expressway will likely be closed for the entire night. Authorities are hoping to get the westbound lanes open; however, there is no time frame as to when that can be expected, said News12 Long Island.
The so-called “epicenter” of the massive crash, which occurred near exit 68 of the Long Island Expressway, appears to be a now-mangled, charred tractor trailer that was carrying mulch or wood chips–debris from Superstorm Sandy–and which quickly caught on fire after slamming into one or multiple vehicles, explained News12 Long Island. The driver of the truck survived the crash and there is no word on the one fatality.
Fire Chief John Mirando of Ridge, New York told News12 Long Island that the calls to 911 started coming in at 2:38 this afternoon. Three vehicles—the tractor and two cars in front of the tractor—appeared to be on fire. Three vehicles behind the tractor were in the process of being worked on for extrication via the Jaws of Life when Chief Mirando arrived at the scene.
“This is one of the most horrific scenes I’ve been on and I’ve been in close to 21 years now and for the amount of victims we have to deal with,” Chief Miranda told News12 Long Island. “It really is a blessing there wasn’t (sic) more” fatalities he said, noting that “A lot of people” were “dazed and confused.” A mass casualty area was set up to help victims of the crash; the Red Cross was being brought in, as was food.
Chief Mirando noted that this type of accident was unusual for this time of year and this type of situation. The truck and its contents are being contained for the investigation, said News12 Long Island. According to initial reports the fatality was not in any of the vehicles in front of the tractor.
The accident involved nearly 40 cars, three hospitals, five fire departments, and 19 ambulances. Inspector Kevin Fallon of the Suffolk County Police, said in a news conference that a “tractor trailer traveling eastbound apparently struck a number of different vehicles. We believe that number is in excess of 25…. We have 16 people who have been injured, two people have serious physical injury, and I can confirm that there’s been one fatality. The injured people have been brought to area hospitals—to Brookhaven Hospital, to Peconic Hospital, and to Stony Brook. There have been five different fire departments that responded to the scene and 19 different EMS agencies have also responded to the scene.”
News12 Long Island reported 37 injuries, some requiring airlift transport to area hospitals.