Sunrise Highway tanker crash sends fireball into the sky

Stacey Sager reports from the scene.
December 18, 2013 3:27:07 PM PST
A fiery collision on Long Island damaged cars and buildings and sent huge flames into the night sky overnight.

It began with a crash just before midnight Tuesday on Sunrise Highway in Bellmore, and it ended with a tanker flipping onto its side and bursting into flames.

See images from the explosion and aftermath

According to police, a fuel truck traveling eastbound on Sunrise Highway struck the rear of a vehicle stopped at a red light at Newbridge Road at 11:52 p.m.

The truck turned on its side and continued east on Sunrise, spilling 7,000 gallons of fuel, before coming to a stop at Brevoort Place.

The fuel caught fire, damaging 12 parked cars and four homes in the area, and the flames traveled back to the tanker and triggered the explosion.

"I could see the flames getting closer and closer," said Mary Matthews, who was standing in her 87-year old mother's bedroom when it happened.

"Like a glow, the orange glow, and I pulled back her drapes, and the fireball was just barrelling down the street," said Matthews.

A fireball from a truck hauling 12,000 gallons of fuel. It tumbled down Sunrise Highway after hitting a car, and then it exploded.

The leaking fuel took flames down the block, and Mary lost both her cars, her patio, and the outside of her home melted. But her elderly mother was saved by a neighbor.

"He came flying in. He literally picked her up, ran her out of the house," Matthews said.

As the flames crept towards Henry Chiu's home, the front left them no way out.

('Were you in a panic when this is going on?') "Yeah of course, I have kids and my parents in the house," said Chiu.

They all had to climb over an 8-foot wall in back of their house to safety. Meanwhile, the town contained the spill with 40 yards of sand.

Just looking at the damage, it's clear this couldn't happen at a worse time, but fortunately neighbors help neighbors around here.

"We had 20 people 3 dogs, 1 cat, and the youngest one, a beautiful little baby boy," said Bellmore homeowner Al Macaluso.

The accident also created a traffic nightmare Wednesday morning as crews worked to clear the wreckage and debris and reopen the highway, which was closed in both directions at Newbridge Road. All lanes fully reopened shortly before noon.

The drivers of both cars were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries.

The investigation is ongoing, but officials do not believe ice played a role in the crash. They also say no criminality is suspected.