It was a typical payload on the Island's central artery of human motion and commerce: 12,000 gallons of volatile fuel meant for some of the 180,000 or so vehicles that roll down the Long Island Expressway every day.
The delivery of unleaded fuel from a Brooklyn depot to Suffolk gas stations ended in a deadly explosion just before 8 a.m. Saturday near Exit 48 at Round Swamp Road in Melville, when the eastbound truck tried to swerve around a slow-moving compact car with mechanical trouble in the center lane. The tanker struck the car before flipping and catching fire, killing the driver.
The truck driver, Mujahid Shah, 57, a Brooklyn man whose boss called him a loyal employee and safe driver, did not escape the fireball.
State Police will reconstruct the accident scene, which is expected to take weeks or months. No determination has been made yet on the speed of the vehicles or the exact cause of the crash.
With Mark Harrington
and Alfonso A. Castillo