LINDEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A smoky, fiery inferno erupted on the New Jersey Turnpike in Linden Tuesday morning, after authorities said a dump truck struck beneath an underpass and ended up on its side – leaving the truck driver dead.

Around 10:15 p.m. — nearly 12 hours after the accident — all of the lanes of the turnpike finally reopened. A few ramps near the accident scene were still in the process of reopening, officials told CBS2.

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As CBS2’s Scott Rapoport reported, the crash happened on the southbound side of the turnpike around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. The truck somehow overturned, catching fire underneath the Wood Avenue overpass between exits 12 and 13.

New Jersey State Police confirmed that the driver was killed in the accident. The body was discovered after police got into the dump truck.

Smoke from the fire could be seen from miles away.

New Jersey State Police, initially concerned about the stability of the overpass, closed down seven lanes of traffic in both directions following the accident.

“Support beams, which we don’t know if they were compromised by the heat or the fire,” said Linden Police captain James Sarnicki.

But after about four hours, engineers gave the all-clear allowing traffic to flow over the top of the deadly wreck and reconnecting an industrial complex where the overpass is the only way in or out, WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported.

Workers and trucks were lined up down the block for hours. DOT spokesman Steve Shapiro said power lines dangling from the bridge had to be cleared first.

The result was a driver’s nightmare.

“It’s terrible,” said motorist Michael Beyer. “Nobody knows what’s going on.”

Traffic was backed up for miles. Motorists were actually being turned around and had to drive the wrong way to escape the massive standstill.

Delays on the NJ Turnpike were so bad following the truck fire one driver took to sunbathing on top of his car. (credit: Twitter/@GothamCarGuy)

Delays on the NJ Turnpike were so bad following the truck fire one driver took to sunbathing on top of his car. (credit: Twitter/@GothamCarGuy)

“It was really bad, especially around 12,” said motorist William Lopez. “It was completely stopped; nobody was moving, and I noticed that the cars were trying to cut around the other streets where they’re not supposed to go, so that made it even worse.”

“I’ve been sitting in traffic for an hour and a half,” said motorist Jeanne Carroll. “It should probably take me about like 20 minutes.”

The northbound outer roadway had reopened late Tuesday afternoon, while the southbound lanes did not reopen until the late night hours.

CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported traffic was diverted on to nearby Routes 1 and 9, which was backed up crawling in both directions and bumper to bumper for miles. She got onto the expressway in Mobile 2 near Route 495 and began heading south, and traffic backups were seen for miles afterward.

“It’s been stop and go. It’s really been more stop than go,” said Ron Molcho, who was just trying to make it home to the Jersey Shore from Staten Island. “I’ve been in the car now for about an hour and a half for what should normally be a 40 minute ride, and I still have probably a good couple of hours before I get home.”

Turnpike Authority spokesman Tom Feeney told 1010 WINS that there are not massive repairs to be done to the overpass, and the authority hopes everything will be back to normal in the morning.

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To accommodate drivers on the Turnpike, a planned closure of the Bayonne Bridge has been canceled, officials said.

Meanwhile, once off the turnpike, things didn’t get much better.

CBS2 found another accident on Atlantic Street and Clifton Street off of exit 13. One of the drivers involved told Rapoport it was a case of too many cars and trucks flooding ill-equipped secondary roads.

“Too much traffic here — way too much. Everything’s cluttered up,” said Thomas Cappucio of Elizabeth. “People can see — all the tractor-trailers are coming through. They’re normally not over here.”

Back at the accident site, there were a myriad of concerns.

Police cordoned off access to the Wood Avenue overpass for a time, worried about the stability of the structure after the dump truck hit. Inspectors were expected on scene to assess its condition.

The overpass has been reopened.

Police also said they were concerned over loose power lines and a potential gas main issue. A caravan of utility trucks were lined up at the site — at the ready in an abundance of caution.

“The truck fire damaged PSE&G’s underground electric facilities and there is heavy damage to electric cables,” PSE&G said in a statement. “Approximately 75 customers are without power. PSE&G crews are on the scene making it safe and will begin work to restore customers as soon as possible.”

Safety was a concern as well as power.

“We don’t want to see anybody get hurt,” said Linden police Capt. James Sarnicki.

And there was the traffic — the seemingly endless slow-roll or even no-roll conditions that had drivers at their wits’ end.

“Two, three hours already, man. It’s incredible. It’s incredible,” said Jeremy Urrutia. “I can’t believe this traffic.”

When traffic came to the long standstills, many got out of their cars and stretched their legs – and some even pulled out chairs and began sunbathing.

One group of men was even recorded on video throwing a football back and forth right in the traffic lanes.

Men playing football on the roadway after a dump truck flipped over and caught fire, shutting down the New Jersey Turnpike. (Credit: Austin Sipes)

Men playing football on the roadway after a dump truck flipped over and caught fire, shutting down the New Jersey Turnpike. (Credit: Austin Sipes)

Another man was spotted swinging at a golf ball.

Kennedy Brown, 15, of Bellmawr, was passing time stuck in traffic by sitting on the sunroof of her mom’s car.

“There are hundreds of cars lined up,” she told WCBS 880 by phone. “All lanes are backed up. There’s people out of their cars walking around the street trying to get a better view. Everyone is just sitting here.”

Other drivers simply resigned themselves to the fact that it would take a long time to make it anywhere.

“It’s a freak accident. It’s unfortunate,” said Tommy Vlahavas. “But like everybody, we have to deal with it, just be patient, and get to where we’re going safely.”

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