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DEC crews continue LIE tanker truck spill cleanup

Environmental crews are expected to spend most of this week finishing the cleanup of contaminated soil caused by a gasoline tanker truck overturning on the Long Island Expressway nine days ago, state DEC officials said.

PHOTOS: Deadly fuel tanker crash on LIE

The tanker was carrying some 12,000 gallons of gasoline on Jan. 23 when it hit a Dodge Neon in the eastbound lanes of the LIE just east of Exit 48 in Melville.

The truck turned over and burst into flames, killing the driver, Mujahid Shah, 57, of Brooklyn. Marie Medina, 30, of Bayonne, N.J., the driver of the Dodge, was not seriously injured.

Bill Fonda, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said Friday that about 5,000 gallons of gasoline burned in the blaze, which baked the asphalt roadway and melted part of a 175-foot sign gantry that spanned both sides of the expressway, causing the gantry to come crashing down.

About another 1,000 gallons were recovered from the truck. More gasoline was recovered by two DEC tanks that collected contaminated water.

"We're estimating that maybe 5,000 gallons escaped into the environment," Fonda said.

DEC crews spent last week removing contaminated soil from the site of the crash and from a water recharge basin on Round Swamp Road, Fonda said. So far, crews have recovered about 200 tons of soil, mostly from the basin.

DEC crews have about 800 tons more soil to remove, a job expected take until the latter part of this week. With the weather forecast to be rain-free, the job should move faster than it has so far, he said.

DEC crews flushed out drainage lines twice shortly after the crash, Fonda said.

There was no estimate for the cost of the cleanup, which Fonda said will be paid by the insurance provider for Kittery Transport Inc., the Maine-based trucking company that employed Shah.

The company's owner, Sam Jacoby, declined to comment on the case until he sees an accident report.

"We'll just wait until the report is released and we'll take it from there," he said Friday.

Officials with the Suffolk County sheriff's office, which is leading the investigation, said the probe is still in its early stages.

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PHOTOS: Deadly fuel tanker crash on LIE

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