No charges have been filed at this time against the 26-year-old driver of the van that lost a pile of mattresses on the New Jersey Turnpike Wednesday afternoon, forcing a tanker truck driver to swerve so suddenly that his truck flipped over a guardrail and instantly burst into flames, killing him.
The fire on the northbound side of exit 15W in Kearny sent thick black smoke into the air that was visible from New York City as firefighters worked to douse the flames that raged around the charred carcass of the truck, which was carrying 8,500 gallons of gasoline from a Linden refinery.
A dashboard camera equipped on another truck captured the crash as the tanker truck driver swerved to avoid hitting an SUV that cut in front of it.
Kevin Hauer, a truck driver from Michigan who captured the accident on his dash cam, told NBC 4 New York he saw a cargo van carrying four mattresses on top about 10 to 15 miles before the crash.
Suddenly, "I saw the mattresses up ahead, like it scattered into the lanes," he said.
Authorities say two mattresses and two box springs fell off the vehicle. A few cars swerved to try to avoid the mattresses, the dash cam video shows.
"It looked like the SUV before the tanker hit his brakes and cut in front of the tanker," Hauer said. "The tanker, of course, tried not to hit him, and it looked like he was going over to the left and he corrected -- but gravity took over and brought him over right onto the guardrail."
"It blew up instantly," he said, still shaken hours after the crash.
It's unclear how securely the mattresses were tied to the van. New Jersey Turnpike regulations make it a violation to improperly secure loads or to allow any part of a load to be scattered on the highway.
Authorities said the driver of the Honda CRV involved in the accident with the tanker before it flipped over the guardrail was OK.
The company that owned the tanker, JSK Transport Inc., identified the driver as Dalip Kumar and said in a statement, "All of us are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and employee. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time.
Kumar, of Newark, had been with the company for nine months.