Tanker overturns off Van Wyck

Driver of truck pronounced dead at the scene
March 3, 2008 4:02:45 PM PST
A tanker truck overturned in the South Ozone Park section of Queens Monday, killing the driver. The tanker overturned on the ramp from westbound North Conduit Avenue onto the northbound Van Wyck Expressway.

Eyewitness News reporter Emily Smith has the story.

Fire officials say the truck driver didn't stand a chance after 9,000 gallons of gasoline caught fire inside the truck.

Heavy smoke and flames poured into the air after the tanker exploded. The driver somehow lost control on an entrance ramp to the Van Wyck Expressway just a few hundred yards from the airport.

"It was crazy being so close to the airport," Florida resident David Capone said. "It was the blackest smoke you've ever seen in your life."

Authorities say the gasoline inside the truck created the high-intensity fire that lit up a stone overpass and nearly spread to a vacant hotel. The heat was so extreme, officials say, windows broke all the way up the building.

"The heat, I felt it," said Sammy Shadow, superintendent of the Carlton Houses. "I was on the second floor, I had to move."

"We felt the heat," Capone said. "It was the most intense heat, you could feel the hairs on your skin."

It took nearly 300 firefighters and about an hour to knock out the flames. They used 3,000 gallons of a foam concentrate to create a blanket to keep the fire from getting any worse than it already was.

Officials are still trying to determine the cause of the crash.

At this point, gas leaking into storm drains is a concern. HazMat has been on the scene, metering to check for vaporization. The road is expected to be closed for several hours.