Suffolk County Police revealed tonight that a 68-year-old woman from Bluepoint was the sole fatality in the fiery collision involving 35 vehicles near Exit 68 in Shirley.
The woman was driving her Toyota when it got caught in the chain reaction accident. The woman’s name was not immediately released.
A preliminary investigation has determined that the multi car pileup occurred after a tractor-trailer carrying storm debris from Hurricane Sandy collided with a number of cars. The truck burst into flame and toppled on its side. It happened so fast, drivers never saw the wreckage until it was too late. At least two cars were on fire. People were trapped in cars and had to be extricated by emergency crews.
Ridge Fire Chief John Mirando described “a horrific scene.” There were injured everywhere, and wreckage strewn over the highway.” He said in his 21-year career he’s never seen anything like it before.
Police said a total of 33 people were injured, none life-threatening. Two had to be Medivaced to Stoney Brook Hospital, 11 were taken to Brookhaven and 18 to Peconic Bay Medical Center. Of the 18, all but two had been released by late tonight.
As crews and investigators scoured the crash site, the eastbound section of the LIE from Exit 66 to 69 remained closed, and officials were uncertain whether it would be open in time for the morning rush. All westbound lanes were open.
The truck driver, identified as 42-year-old Raymond Simoneau of Rockingham, Vermont, escaped serious injury and was said to be cooperating with the police investigation. It could take investigators weeks, even months, to determine the cause of the accident. Given the magnitude of the collision, and the mangled wreckage strewn across the highway, officials at the scene noted that it was a miracle more people weren’t killed.