SHERIDAN, N.Y. (WIVB) – A fuel tanker truck crashed on a bridge above I-90 and caught fire Tuesday morning in Chautauqua County, causing the eastbound lane of the thruway to be closed for nearly two hours.
The highway reopened around noon, expect for one lane in the eastbound lane that remained closed. Route 20 remained closed for much of the day.
Sheridan fire chief Mitchell Magierski said the initial call came in at 9:54 a.m. for an accident involving a pickup truck and a tanker on Route 20. When he arrived on the scene, the tanker was fully engulfed in fire.
According to Magierksi, witnesses said that a van, while traveling, had a tire come off.
The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office says the fuel truck attempted to avoid the tire and hit head-on with a pickup truck, causing the fuel truck to hang over the overpass and leak fuel oil. Both vehicles went up in flames.
The driver of the tanker suffered burns to his hands, arms and face and was flown to ECMC for treatment, Magierski said, but his injuries are not thought to be life-threatening. The pickup driver was taken to Brooks Hospital, according to the Sheriff’s Office, but is believed to have avoided serious injury.
The eastbound lane of I-90 was blocked between exits 58 (Silver Creek/Irving) and 59 (Dunkirk/Fredonia) due to the crash, the Thruway Authority said.
Magierski believed the tanker driver was coming back from a delivery because he only had about 100 gallons of fuel left in his truck. There is no suspicion that either of the drivers were impaired. Both the pickup and the tanker appeared charred at the scene.
“When I first arrived, (the fire) was going pretty good,” Magierski said. “The tires were exploding at that time. But with just being 100 gallons, it was nothing too big.”
Magierski said the vehicle that lost the tire fled the scene. Police are searching for the driver, he said, who fled the scene with only three tires. The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office says it located the van Tuesday afternoon behind a barn about a half mile away.
Investigators do have a person of interest as to who was driving the van.
Debris falling onto I-90 caused at least one other minor accident. No injuries were reported.
The approximate location of the accident is shown on the map below.