Three men working Tuesday morning at a shuttered Freeport gas station were seriously burned when fumes from fuel tanks they were removing accidentally ignited, police said.
The victims were in critical but stable condition Tuesday night in the burn center at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, a spokeswoman said.
Witnesses said the workers ran from the fire, their clothes on fire.
"It was terrifying," said Lauren McLellan, 21, a receptionist at Heritage Jaguar, a dealership next to the Gulf station at the corner of Long Beach Avenue and Sunrise Highway.
McLellan said the workers were extracting gas from the tanks when she heard shouting and then saw flames and smoke. She said the gas station has been closed about a month.
Nassau County police said the workers represented AARCO Environmental Services Corp. in Lindenhurst and Service Station of Long Island Inc. in Bay Shore. Of the three men injured in the 9:55 a.m. fire, one of them is 19 years old and the others are both 35, police said.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation.
Photographs from the scene showed charred vehicles parked at the station.
Neighborhood resident Debbie Wilson said she and other witnesses heard explosions and initially thought it was the gas tanks. "Then we realized it was tires exploding from the heat," she said.
The fire was contained to the station property, authorities said. The fire closed Sunrise Highway in the area until about 3 p.m.
An official with a dealership affiliate said Heritage bought the gas station property but remediation work was being done by the previous owner.