The driver, whose identity was not immediately released, was trying to get on the northbound Van Wyck at around 12:17 p.m. when the tanker overturned and burst into flames on the service ramp, police said.Traffic came to a halt on both sides of the Van Wyck and at North Conduit Avenue as the Fire Department flooded the street with foam to put out the explosion."I thought it was a house fire. I dialed 911," said Gregory Robinson, who was walking along the Van Wyck overpass at 135th Avenue when he saw the explosion. "It was like a mushroom. Everybody started laying out on the ground. The whole road was on fire. You couldn't tell what it was."A gas smell permeated the surrounding neighborhood as a crowd gathered by the overpass to watch firefighters put out the blaze.The tanker was burnt and windows on the bottom floors of a nearby abandoned hotel were blown out from the explosion. Another witness, who wanted to be identified only as John, said the driver of the tanker went too fast around a turn to get onto the Van Wyck."If you're not familiar with that turn, you could be in trouble. It's a right-angle curve," said John.He said the explosion "was a shock wave. I felt like somebody shook me."It took about 1 1/2 hours for traffic to move on the Van Wyck following the explosion and nearly two hours before an AirTrain rumbled above the highway.The entrance ramp was still closed as of 4 p.m as crews inspected the road for structural damage.Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2008 Community News Group
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