Truck in Deadly L.I.E. Crash Was Hauling Sandy Debris: Police

By Tracie Strahan and Pei-Sze Cheng
|  Sunday, Jul 7, 2013  |  Updated 9:17 PM EDT
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A serious accident near exit 68 of the Long Island Expressway had a portion of the expressway shut down in both directions Wednesday. This is raw aerial footage provided courtesy of News12 Long Island.

Courtesy News12 Long Island

A serious accident near exit 68 of the Long Island Expressway had a portion of the expressway shut down in both directions Wednesday. This is raw aerial footage provided courtesy of News12 Long Island.

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A tractor-trailer hauling debris from Sandy slammed into several cars on the Long Island Expressway Wednesday afternoon, causing a chain reaction crash in which 35 vehicles collided, injuring 33 people and killing one, police say. 

The truck, driven by 42-year-old Raymond Simoneau of Rockingham, Vt., was going eastbound on the L.I.E. when it struck several cars near exit 68 in the town of Shirley just before 3 p.m., authorities say. 

One driver described the crash unfolding next to him while he was on the freeway.

"All we heard was crashing behind us, it sounded like thunder," said Jimmy Batjley. "Looking back, all I saw was glass and metal, and they went right past us, at least 40 mph." 

"If you can imagine all the cars were lined up, and it just came right in and just pushed that entire line," said Batjley. He said the tractor-trailer driver was pulled out before the truck burst into flames. 

Aerial footage provided by News12 Long Island showed the trailer partly incinerated at dusk, alongside at least two cars that appeared to be blackened and burned. Multiple other vehicles, including a box truck, were scattered nearby, apparently having collided into one another or the guardrail. 

A 68-year-old woman driving a Toyota Camry was killed in the crash, police said. An additional 33 people were injured, including a 57-year-old man who is in serious condition.

At Peconic Bay Medical Center, where 18 of the victims were taken, most of the injuries were minor. Three of those hurt were children, and the oldest was 61 years old, according to spokesman Demetrios Kadenas. All but one of the patients were released by Wednesday night. 

Parts of the L.I.E. had been shut down through Wednesday's evening rush hour as police investigated, but all lanes had reopened by Thursday morning.

The tractor-trailer and several of the vehicles involved in the crash are being impounded for safety checks.

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