A 68-year-old woman died in a massive auto pileup on the Long Island Expressway caused by a tractor-trailer that hit cars in the eastbound lane on Wednesday afternoon.
SHIRLEY, N.Y. — All lanes of the Long Island Expressway have reopened following a chain reaction of fiery crashes east of New York City that killed one person and injured 33 others.
The westbound lanes reopened before Thursday's morning rush hour.
Police say a tractor-trailer smashed into several vehicles about 70 miles east of New York City on Wednesday. The crash set off a series of accidents that left at least two dozen vehicles strewn across several hundred yards of the eastbound lanes.
The tractor-trailer was carrying debris from Superstorm Sandy. At least three vehicles caught fire.
A 68-year-old woman from Blue Point, N.Y., died at the scene. A car involved in the initial collision with the tractor-trailer was incinerated beyond recognition.
The tractor-trailer driver, 42-year-old Raymond Simoneau, of Rockingham, Vt., was heading eastbound when his truck struck a number of cars, triggering a pileup involving 35 vehicles, Suffolk County police said. It was unclear if Simoneau was one of the injured.
A car involved in the initial collision with the tractor-trailer was incinerated beyond recognition, with its tires punctured and paint burned off its body. Some SUVs and cars suffered extensive damage while others appeared to have barely a scratch. All were haphazardly stopped across the highway.
Police Deputy Inspector Kevin Fallon said the accident occurred at about 2:40 p.m. on a bright, sunny day.
Five fire departments responded to the scene as well as 19 emergency medical services agencies, police said.
Investigators were working to sort out the sequence of events that led to the accident that caused the chaos on the isolated stretch of road on the rural part of eastern Long Island, Fallon said.
"Anybody rolling up on this scene you would think there would be definitely more than just one fatality," said John Mirando, chief of the Ridge Fire Department. "It's just lucky that it's only one, but it could have been a lot worse."
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.
MSN News on Facebook and Twitter
Stay up to date on breaking news and current events.
Friend us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/news.msn
Follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/msnnews