Rescuers pulled a driver from a burning sport utility vehicle that had slammed into an overpass on the Southern State Parkway in North Merrick late Friday morning.

Police said the Lexus SUV struck a bridge abutment, near Exit 23, on the eastbound parkway at Meadowbrook Road at about 11:30 a.m., trapping driver Alexie Schramm, 34, of the Beechhurst section of Queens.

"He [the SUV] went airborne about 5 feet into the bridge," said State Trooper Wallace Gray, who was the first police officer to reach Schramm. Gray added: "We can't figure out why he went off the road."

The State Police's wreck investigation is unfinished. As of Friday afternoon, police hadn't been able to interview Schramm, who sustained severe injuries to his face, as well as broken legs and internal injuries.

"He was in severe pain the whole time, screaming," Gray said.

Rich Zenhausern, 58, of Elmont, who works for the state Department of Transportation, said he pulled over when he saw the crash and gave his truck's fire extinguisher to police trying to help the crash victim.

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"He was grimacing in panic. You could hear him say, 'Get me out of here! Get me out of here!' " Zenhausern said.

Gray, who originally is from Hempstead, covered Schramm with an emergency blanket and extinguished the fire in the engine compartment of the Lexus. He used the blanket to keep the extinguisher's contents off Schramm. "I used it to cover him up so the fire extinguisher powder wouldn't get all over his wounds," Gray said.

It took Nassau County police emergency services about 15 or 20 minutes to extricate Schramm, police said.

Schramm was brought to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow. Hospital spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg said that Schramm was in the intensive care unit in critical but stable condition. Through Lotenberg, Schramm and his family declined to comment.

During the ordeal, Gray did his best to keep Schramm talking -- asking him questions like what was his name and where he is from. "I kept him going, kept him talking to me until the EMTs were there," Gray said.

About an hour after the crash, the parkway was opened. Workers went about repairing a speed-limit sign: The force of the impact was so great that it flung a piece of metal from the sign onto the overpass above.

With John Valenti