This image taken from video on the News 12 Long Island website shows an aerial view of a multi-vehicle accident on the Long Island Expressway, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, in Shirley, N.Y. Police have closed the Expressway between exits 65 and 69 so first responders can work the scene. Over 20 vehicles are believed to be involved. (AP Photo/News 12 Long Island) MANDATORY CREDIT: NEWS 12 LONG ISLAND
Updated: December 19, 2012 7:20PM
SHIRLEY, N.Y. — A massive traffic pileup on a major road left one person dead and 32 people injured on New York’s Long Island, with dozens of vehicles scattered over several hundred yards and some even catching on fire.
Police said the chaos on the eastbound Long Island Expressway in Shirley happened shortly before 3 p.m. on a bright, sunny Wednesday.
Aerial shots from News12 Long Island showed at least one tractor-trailer and several cars apparently damaged by fire. The roadway was closed between exits 65 and 69. Authorities expected the eastbound section to be closed for hours, probably through the night.
Several hours later, a tractor-trailer could still be seen smoldering. A nearby car was burned so badly it was impossible to see what kind of vehicle it had been, with its tired incinerated.
Cars faced in all directions, some with minor damage and others wrecked.
Authorities were investigating the cause of the chaos, on an isolated stretch of road on the rural part of eastern Long Island.
Driver Danny Gershonowitz told Newsday that he was ahead of the accident when he saw two cars stop on the road shoulder.
“The gentleman to the right of me went down to the ground and was praying. When I looked in my rear view mirror, there was smoke and flames coming out,” he said.
He said he and others got the attention of the truck driver, and helped him as he climbed out of his smoking vehicle.
“Pretty soon, the whole front of the truck was engulfed in fire, and that’s when people started backing away,” he said. “The police came and asked everybody to run and get out of the way, because I guess they thought it would explode.”