The tanker crashed in Wayne after the driver apparently lost control of the vehicle and spilled about 9,000 gallons of gasoline on Route 23. The driver was killed in the crash that happened at the bend in Route 23 North by the Wayne Lincoln Mercury car dealership near the Ratzer Road intersection at 12:09 a.m.
Witnesses said the truck was engulfed so quickly that the driver had no chance of survival. At least four cars at the dealership were totally destroyed, and about 40 more were damaged.
While most of the gas was burned in the initial explosion, much of it ran into the storm drain system and then into the river about a quarter-mile away. About 10 minutes after the crash, fumes, and gasoline that had collected in the river ignited just north of the Route 23 bridge, instantaneously setting off an explosive fireball almost 75 feet high and extending 1,500 feet down the river.
The explosion and initial fire lasted less than one minute, but the riverbank on the Wayne side was scorched with many small fires left burning. Fortunately for residents on the Pequannock side of the river, prevailing winds shifted the current toward the Wayne side where there were no homes. Many homes on the Pequannock side could have been destroyed in the explosion, it was reported.