Updated, 10:25 p.m. - A 35-car pileup on the Long Island Expressway killed a Blue Point woman and injured 33 on Wednesday, closing the highway and backing up traffic for miles, Suffolk County Police said.
Police said the accident, which happened in Shirley just west of the William Floyd Parkway, was caused when a tractor-trailer carrying storm debris driven by Raymond Simoneau, 42, of Rockingham, VT, struck several cars and caused chain of accidents on Long Island's busiest major highway. Police said 35 cars were damaged, and the tractor-trailer as well as two other vehicles burst into flames.
Police did not release the name of th 68-year-old Blue Point woman who died in the crash, but said she was driving a Toyota Camry and was pronounced dead at the scene. Another victim, a 57-year-old man from Port Jefferson, is in serious condition, police said.
Altogether, 33 people were injured in the crash and were sent to area hospitals including Peconic Bay Medical Center, Brookhaven Memorial Hospital, Stony Brook University Hospital and St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson.
Police said the eastbound LIE will be closed throughout the night as they continue to investigate the crash and the westbound lane may open before the Thursday mornign commute, but police could not yet give a specific time.
As of early Wednesday evening, wrecked and smoldering cars still lined the roadway, and the tractor-trailer's cab was mostly burned away. Earlier reports said the truck was carrying mulch.
One of the vehicles involved was a delivery van from Montauk. The Gurney's Beach Bakery driver and his helper were sent to the hospital, but were already on their way back home on Wednesday evening, according to Paul Monte, the general manager and CEO of Gurney's Inn Resort & Spa in Montauk.
Gurney's management received a call from the driver — whose name was not immediately released — soon after the accident occurred around 2:40 p.m. "He said he saw the truck barreling down behind them and he pulled over — the truck kind of sideswiped him," Monte explained.
Ridge Fire Chief John Mirando, a 21-year-veteran of the fire department, called the scene the "most horrific scene I have ever saw."
Mirando, whose department has command of the scene, said that when he arrived at the site three cars were on fire and "victims were scattered all around." Three cars had victims pinned inside, though Mirando did not say how many people had to be extricated.
Suffolk County Commissioner of Fire Rescue Joe Williams told Newsday the accident was the worst he'd seen in 46 years.
"I've never seen devastation like this. We had vehicles that were on fire. We had trucks that were on fire. We had a lot of people still trapped in their cars. We had a lot of citizens that weren't injured helping other citizens," he said.
Police closed the LIE from exits 66 to 69, diverting all traffic off the expressway. A call reporting a motor vehicle crash came in at 2:38 p.m.
Demetrios Kadenas, chief development officer with Peconic Bay Medical Center, said that the Riverhead hospital has accepted 18 people involved in Tuesday's crash, ranging from toddlers in car seats all the way up to adults.
Two of the 18 who arrived at PBMC were considered serious injuries and one had already been discharged as of about 5 p.m., he said.
The toddler was not one of the two serious injuries, according Kadenas.
UPDATE, 4:30 p.m. Kadenas confirmed that 12 people were transported to the Riverhead hospital following the Tuesday afternoon crash, and the PBMC activated its command center in response to the accident.
Kadenas said nine were not serious injuries, while the other three were sent to the emergency room, though no fatalities had been reported at the hospital. He said they arrived around 3:40 p.m.
According to Kadenas, activating the hospital's command center involves undergoing "an emergency response within the hospital. Basically informing different areas of the hospital that would respond in any sort of emergency, and we have a designated area of the hospital where everyone meets."
He said he was told everyone involved in the crash would be coming to PBMC.
Riverhead police said that a sergeant had been sent to the scene, and added that Route 58 would be closed as needed to accomodate ambulances headed to PBMC.
A hospital spokesperson for Stony Brook University Medical Center confirmed that two patients had been brought to the facility. One patient is in fair condition, the other is in good condition. The spokesperson said accident victims are also being taken to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center and PBMC.
Original story: Police and emergency personnel are responding to a massive car accident on the Long Island Expressway at the Manorville exit to William Floyd Parkway where one person has reportedly died.
Traffic is backed up from the accident, which involved over 20 cars and a tractor-trailer carrying mulch.
Suffolk County Police say the roadway is closed from exits 66 to 69, and all traffic is being diverted off the expressway. A call reporting a motor vehicle crash came in at 2:38 p.m.
According to police chatter on scanners, at least one person has died in the accident and 12 people are being taken to area hospitals and others are "walking wounded"
Check back as this story develops.