Fiery scare slows traffic in Sheridan
SHERIDAN — It appears a van that lost its rear wheel caused a pickup truck and a fuel tanker truck to collide, causing an explosion and sending people to area hospitals.
According to the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office, around 9:45 a.m. Tuesday, a TPS Fuel truck driven by Jean M. Esquilin-Melendez, 30, of Dunkirk was heading east on Route 20 when a wheel came off a van and hit his vehicle. This caused the TPS truck, which was carrying about 100 gallons of diesel fuel, to strike a pickup truck head-on, driven by Herbert Overbeck, 40, of Silver Creek, which was traveling west. The force of the impact sent the TPS truck partially over a bridge to Interstate 90.
Firefighters from multiple departments raced to the scene and saw the tanker on fire, fully involved.
“We got a little bit of water on it and got it out,” said Sheridan Fire Chief Mitchell Magierski. “They ended up flying out the driver of the tanker. The driver of the pickup truck, he was up walking around, he was mobile.”
By the time Magierski got to the crash, an explosion had already occurred. As he was working at the scene, the TPS truck’s tires began to explode as well. Within a half-hour of arriving, they were able to extinguish the fire.
Sheriff deputies said Esquilin-Melendez was flown by STAT Medevac to Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo for treatment of burns and other injuries. Overbeck was taken by a private vehicle to Brooks Memorial Hospital for care.
Because the TPS truck was partially over the Thurway bridge, Interstate 90 east was shut down for about an hour between exits 58 and 59. “The way the tanker was over the Thruway bridge, I didn’t want anything to happen, so I shut down the Thruway,” Magierski said.
Route 20 was also closed until about 5 p.m.
According to deputies, the driver of the van involved continued on from the scene and attempted to hide his van from police; the van was later located near the accident scene.
Deputies were still searching for the van’s driver late Tuesday afternoon.
Magierski said there were around 40 firefighters who responded to the scene Tuesday, with about a dozen from his department. Along with Sheridan, other responding departments included Fredonia, Silver Creek, Forestville, Sunset Bay and Hanover Center.
“I just want to thank everybody that helped and I’m glad that everybody is OK,” the chief said.
Deputies were also assisted at the scene by the Chautauqua County Accident Reconstruction Team, Alstar Ambulance, Chautauqua County Emergency Medical Service, Chautauqua County Hazmat, Chautauqua County Fire Police and STAT Medevac. State Police and the Department of Environmental Conservation also responded.