Westbound LIE reopened after tanker crash

(AP) - A fuel truck flipped and exploded on NewYork's Long Island Expressway on Saturday morning, killing thedriver and creating a fireball seen for miles.

The heavily trafficked highway that connects the suburbs to NewYork City was closed in both directions for hours after the intenseheat melted the supports for a huge road sign, which collapsedacross all eight lanes of the roadway.

Westbound lanes were reopened about 6:15 p.m., officials said.The fire caused the pavement to buckle in the eastbound lanes, andworkers were expected to begin repaving the road overnight, saidChief Michael Sharkey of the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department.

Eileen Peters, a spokeswoman for the state Department ofTransportation, said that the agency was "cautiously optimistic"that the eastbound lanes could be repaired and reopened by Sunday.

She said about 200 feet of road that had melted needed to berepaved. She said DOT staff had been working throughout the day.

"They will continue through the night until we can open theroadway safely," she said.

She could not estimate the cost for the repairs but said thestate would seek to recuperate the cost through insurance.

Emergency crews battled the raging blaze for three hours afterthe 8 a.m. accident between Melville and Plainview near the NassauCounty line. Heavy equipment was brought in to remove the fallensign.

The tanker was operated by Maine-based Kittery Transport,authorities said, and the driver was identified as Mujahid Shah,57, of Brooklyn.

The accident happened as the tanker sought to pass a small carthat apparently was having mechanical problems and slowing down,Sharkey said.

He said the Dodge was trying to get to the shoulder of thehighway when the tanker veered around it, struck it and lostcontrol.

The tanker overturned, igniting into flames.

"It would appear that the driver of the truck was not able toget out of the vehicle," Sharkey said. Rescuers extricated hisbody after the flames died down.

The woman at the wheel of the car was taken by helicopter toNassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, where she wasbeing treated for injuries that were not serious, Sharkey said.

Firefighters poured foam onto the smoldering truck, which theyestimated still held about 1,500 gallons of gasoline. The fuel hadbeen picked up Saturday morning in Brooklyn for delivery to LongIsland.

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