Anthony Borrelli, email@example.com | @PSBABorrelli 5:09 p.m. EDT September 14, 2016
(Photo: ANDREW THAYER / Staff Photo)
A fiery triple tractor-trailer crash Wednesday morning left one person dead and shut down a section of Interstate 81 South in Binghamton for nearly eight hours, officials said.
The wreck happened around 9 a.m., just south of the Broad Avenue exit on I-81. A swarm of police and other emergency response vehicles converged after one of the tractor-trailers burst into flame and sent up a plume of black smoke that was visible nearly 10 miles away.
Binghamton police investigated the crash with assistance from a state police accident reconstruction team. Investigators say the crash is believed to be a chain reaction: One tractor-trailer struck another from behind, then it was struck by a third tractor-trailer.
Firefighters work the scene of a fatal triple tractor-trailer crash Wednesday morning on Interstate 81 south near Exit 3 at Broad Avenue. (Photo: ANDREW THAYER / Staff Photo)
The cause of the wreck remained under investigation late Wednesday, according to police. Officials did not release the identity of the deceased victim Wednesday, nor did they identify others involved in the crash or their conditions.
Heavy traffic in the north and southbound interstate lanes was re-routed within moments of the crash and many vehicles were forced to stop on I-81 while emergency responders worked to clear the wrecked vehicles.
Northbound I-81 traffic was re-opened by 10:30 a.m., and one lane on I-81 southbound re-opened at 4:40 p.m. — nearly eight hours after the crash occurred.
Officials say I-81 South traffic was detoured to Route 7, then Route 363, to Route 11 (Court Street) and back onto I-81 at Exit 2.
Traffic is backed up along Interstate 81 north after one person died in a triple tractor-trailer crash Wednesday morning on Interstate 81. (Photo: ANDREW THAYER / Staff Photo)
From the Bigelow Street bridge in Binghamton, a cluster of onlookers watched the crash investigation unfold Wednesday morning. Among them was Denise Dean, whose home on nearby French Court sits about 100 feet from the site of the crash.
Dean, 54, said she awoke to the sound of metal on metal and rushed to her kitchen window for a better view. She was able to glimpse the blazing wreckage through some trees across the street and called 911.
"I turned to sheer panic when I saw the flames," Dean said. "Then, there was a series of explosions: Boom! Boom! Boom!"
Dan Hauer, 46, from Port Crane, described what happened next as a "mushroom cloud of smoke and flame."
People look at the scene of a fatal triple tractor-trailer crash Wednesday morning on Interstate 81 south near Exit 3 at Broad Avenue. (Photo: ANDREW THAYER / Staff Photo)
Hauer said he was shopping nearby at Agway when he heard the crash. Watching from the Bigelow Street bridge as firefighters suppressed lingering hot spots in one of the wrecked tractor-trailers, Hauer praised the emergency responders for clamping down on the crash scene quickly.
"They did great handling it," he said.