A massive fire tore through an empty Long Island furniture store after a fuel tanker carrying over 9,000 gallons of gasoline slammed into the building early Wednesday morning, according to officials. The crash and fire shut down all lanes of the Sunrise Highway in the area.
Fire officials said they responded to the alarm around 1:10 a.m. and arrived to find two commercial buildings in flames, including the former La-Z-Boy showroom at 150 Sunrise Highway in Rockville Centre.
"It's one of the worst things I've seen in my 47-year career," Rockville Centre Fire Chief James Avondet said at the scene Wednesday morning.
Authorities said a tanker truck had overturned and crashed into the large, empty store, before ricocheting into a liquor store across the street. The tanker's 9,200 gallons of gasoline spilled out and ignited into a massive blaze, Avondet said at an early morning news conference.
"When I came here, there was fire everywhere, in the street, the tanker, the two buildings. When I looked down Sunrise Highway, there was fire coming out of seven or eight manhole covers, all the way down, about a quarter mile down the road," Avondet said.
The chief said the fire had extended to the exterior of the liquor store across the street. He added that about 125 firefighters from 18 different fire departments responded to battle the blaze.
The driver of the tanker was taken to an area hospital where he was being evaluated, Avaondet said. The extent of his injuries was not immediately known. Three firefighters were also hurt, with two being taken to a nearby hospital and one refusing medical attention at the scene.
Nassau County Police said the Sunrise Highway was closed in both directions between North Centre and North Park avenues Wednesday morning, while the crash was being investigated. Officials said they didn't expect the highway to reopen in the area until perhaps late Wednesday afternoon or evening.