An accident involving a tanker truck and a minivan on the New Jersey Turnpike sparked a spectacular explosion in Carlstadt Monday night, shutting down the turnpike and backing up the traffic for hours.
All lanes reopened by 7 a.m. Tuesday. Earlier, northbound lanes had been closed between Interchange 15W in Kearny to Interchange 18W in Carlstadt.
A 2000 Honda Odyssey minivan carrying nine people tried backing up from a tollbooth and into the E-ZPass speed lane — where cars can drive through without slowing down to pay a toll — near Interchange 18W in Carlstadt around 9 p.m. Monday, State Police Lt. Stephen Jones said.
An oncoming tanker truck, carrying 8,500 pounds of fuel, collided with the minivan and the tanker struck a concrete barrier and exploded in flames, Jones said.
Three female passengers in the minivan were critically injured: 8-year-old Isata Bah; 14-year-old Kadijatu Bah and 27-year-old Madagbe Sananna. Jones said there was no immediate update on their condition.
The minivan's driver, 45-year-old Yayah Bah of Manhattan, suffered a moderate head injury.
Firefighters used a Port Authority foam truck to put out the flames.
All nine people in the minivan live at the same address in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood, according to Jones, who said eight of them share the last name Bah with the driver. Police aren't yet sure what their relationships are to one another, or where the group had been traveling.
The truck's driver, 50-year-old Howard Kiefer of Monticello, N.Y., was able to get out of the tanker before it became engulfed. He escaped with a minor leg injury.
Emergency construction to repair damage to the highway closed the turnpike's western spur between Interchange 15W and Interchange 18W until Tuesday morning.
The accident remains under investigation.