Sunrise Highway reopened early Thursday morning, about 24 hours after a fiery tanker truck crash closed a portion of the road in Rockville Centre, Nassau County police said.
The crash, which destroyed a vacant furniture showroom on the southwest corner of Sunrise Highway and North Centre Avenue and damaged a building on the southeast corner, occurred at about 1:10 a.m. Wednesday, forcing a closure of Sunrise Highway from Ocean Avenue to Village Avenue. Police said the road was reopened at 1:15 a.m. Thursday.
The crash, which involved a tanker loaded with 9,200 gallons of gasoline, sparked a fireball that ignited a massive fire, sending burning gasoline into the streets and the nearby Mill River in an environmental calamity that prompted Gov. Kathy Hochul to dispatch state agencies to assist in a rapid cleanup. More than 150 firefighters from 26 departments, as well as police from Nassau and Rockville Centre, hazmat crews and even the U.S. Coast Guard responded.
Police said the road closures were not only due to the emergency activity and overhaul and cleanup of the scene, but also because the fire melted electrical wires and traffic lights in the area, causing a power outage that affected about 500 homes and surrounding businesses. It also led to the closing of two elementary schools, St. Agnes Cathedral School and Riverside Elementary. Both were expected to open Thursday.
The village has its own power grid, with power lines that run underground. Officials said they still have to assess and repair damaged lines once manholes, whose covers were sent shooting skyward from exploding gasoline that flooded into sewers surrounding the crash scene, were deemed safe.
Video of the crash taken from a nearby gas station and shared with Newsday showed that shortly before 1:10 a.m. the truck, which authorities said was operated by Bay Shore-based Rocket Express Corp., rolled down Sunrise Highway. As it passed two vehicles stopped at the North Centre Avenue traffic light it flipped, skidding through the intersection and igniting in a bright flash. The fire burned through the vacant La-Z-Boy store on one side of the avenue and melted the “Fine Wines” sign of the liquor store on the other.
Nassau County Chief Fire Marshal Michael F. Uttaro said the tanker driver got out of the truck cab on his own and had only minor injuries. Three firefighters also suffered minor injuries, he said.