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Police: LIE wrong-way driver was drunk

Yuhua Zhu, 40, of Jericho, was charged with

Yuhua Zhu, 40, of Jericho, was charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless endangerment and two counts of third-degree assault, Nassau County police said. Zhu sideswiped a tractor-trailer on an exit ramp on the Long Island Expressway in Jericho and then crashed head-on into a box truck, injuring two people, police said. (May 16, 2012) Credit: NCPD

A wrong-way drunken driver was arrested Tuesday night after she sideswiped a tractor-trailer on an exit ramp on the Long Island Expressway in Jericho and then crashed head-on into a box truck, injuring two people, police said.

Yuhua Zhu, 40, of Karol Place in Jericho, was charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless endangerment and two counts of third-degree assault, Nassau County police said.

The accident, which occurred at 8:14 p.m., closed the expressway at Exit 40 for almost four hours as authorities rescued two men from the box truck and investigated the crash. The box truck's driver and passenger were taken to a hospital with what police called non-life-threatening injuries. Police said neither Zhu nor the driver of the tractor-trailer was injured.

Police said Zhu drove her 2010 Land Rover westbound on the eastbound south service road of the expressway, striking the tractor-trailer on the exit ramp and then entering the right lane of the expressway -- where she then struck the box truck head on.

Rachel Tolin, 29, of Jericho, said she was driving behind the tractor-trailer when Zhu's vehicle entered the LIE ramp in the wrong direction.

Tolin said she saw the Land Rover clip the tractor-trailer, which slowed down Zhu as she entered the expressway and smashed into a Sleepy's mattress truck.

The impact sent the box truck veering left acrosss the expressway, while Zhu's car spun around and hit the guard rail at the exit, she said.

"In my car by myself, I was screaming 'Oh my God' because I was thinking of the mom on the Taconic in her car with her kids," said Tolin, referring to a West Babylon woman who crashed going the wrong way on the Taconic Parkway in 2009, killing eight people, including four children and herself.

Tolin said she was on the phone with 911 while she ran toward the damaged vehicles.

The box truck had the most damage, she said: "It was a horrible sight. The right front wheel of the truck was completely embedded under the truck. The whole front was smashed. It was leaking gas all over the highway . . . I was afraid. In my heart of hearts, I had the feeling that it was going to blow."

Other drivers stopped to help the men in the box truck, she said, and she heard one say in panic, "He can't get his legs out. It's crushed. We can't get it out. We can't get it out."

Police closed LIE between Exit 40, Jericho Turnpike, and Exit 41, the exit for Route 106-107.

Zhu was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in First District Court in Hempstead.

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