PARAMUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A crash involving a tractor-trailer, a container truck, two cars and a debris spill snarled traffic for hours on Route 17 in Paramus Wednesday morning.
It happened around 5:47 a.m. on the northbound side of the roadway just north of Farview Avenue and across from the Garden State Plaza Mall.
Police said a container truck carrying home tiles became disabled in the center lane when the 63-year-old driver said the truck’s brakes locked up as he was slowing down for traffic. He then put on his emergency flashers and called for help, police said.
That’s when the driver of the tractor-trailer, carrying a load of steel beams, swerved to avoid hitting the broken down truck.
“I tried to save my life and the guy over there and something happened,” trailer driver Antonio Cerrato told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell.
Bus driver Jose Maldanado watched it happen right in front of him.
“The tractor in the front, the blue one it was flying on the left side and the other truck was stopped in the middle of Route 17,” he said. “That’s when it hit the back of the other truck.”
The load of heavy steel beams on the trailer came loose, spilling all over the roadway, with one of beams going airborne.
“Flew to the other side of Route 17. That’s when it hit the other car on the other side,” said Maldonado.
Police said the beam weighing around 2,500 pounds hit a Toyota Corolla traveling on the southbound side of the highway. The impact trapped 56-year-old Thomas Doyle, of Rockland County, inside. Emergency responders were forced to pry open the vehicle to get him out.
“Probably took 20 to 25 minutes, bunch of equipment, 20 to 30 firefighters surrounding the vehicle,” said witness David Weberman. “Pretty scary.”
Doyle was taken to the hospital with serious, but non-life threatening injuries. CBS2 learned he will have to stay overnight but is recovering well.
A second car on the southbound side, a Ford Escort, ran over one of the steel beams, police said. The 48-year-old driver complained of chest and back pain, police said.
Both directions of Route 17 were shut down until the mess could be cleared. Drivers were left with no choice but to sit and wait.
“I’ve been driving six years, this is one of the worst accidents I’ve seen,” said Maldanado.
The investigation into the crash is ongoing.