ELIZABETH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Officials say Routes 1 and 9 in Elizabeth will remain closed for most of the night after a tanker truck burst into flames when it collided with a car early Tuesday morning, killing the driver.
Routes 1 and 9 are still closed in both directions between Bayway Circle and Greer Avenue as officials investigate the crash.
“I’ve never seen a truck make it all the way underneath a tractor trailer. I’ve seen them hit them. I’ve seen them halfway under, but never where the whole center of the car was under the truck,” said Randy Van Manen of Staten Island.
The accident happened at around 2 a.m. Witnesses claim the car was racing and ran right into the tanker, causing it to burst into flames just yards away from a gas station.
“I just heard this big explosion,” witness Brian Durango told CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider.
“It looked scary,” added witness Joy King. “Just like a movie.”
More than 1,000 gallons of fuel leaked onto the road. Fire companies in Elizabeth, Newark, Linden, Union, Springfield and Milburn responded to the blaze, utilizing their “Neptune System,” which employs foam to fight gasoline fires.
“These things carry over 8,000 gallons of gasoline, they burn extremely hot,” said Elizabeth Deputy Fire Chief Lathey Wirkus. “So we were able to cover the area with foam and suppress the vapors to keep the area safe.”
If that foam hadn’t been used, an official said, the fire could’ve spread easily and potentially destroyed several homes.
The driver of the car died, but the driver of the tanker was able to jump out in time.
“When the explosion occurred, he was able to exit the truck and escape the fire,” Wirkus said.
A preliminary investigation indicates the driver of the car may have run a red light. Authorities said there’s no indication so far of any drag racing activity.
As a precaution, firefighters went door to door and evacuated residents from their homes and checked the area and the surrounding water supply for any evidence of gas vapors. They said everything is safe and residents have been allowed to return.
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