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State, contractor work all night to repair LIE

A fuel tanker clipped a sedan, flipped and

A fuel tanker clipped a sedan, flipped and ignited on the eastbound side of the LIE near Exit 48 on Jan. 23, 2010. Credit: Paul Mazza

State employees and a private contractor worked through the night to clean, repave and reopen to traffic a wide section of the Long Island Expressway where early Saturday a tanker truck hauling 12,000 gallons of gasoline overturned and ignited, killing the driver.

About 36 state transportation department employees and six employees of Newborn Construction Inc. of Center Moriches were on the scene almost immediately after the truck overturned about 8 a.m., just east of Exit 48 in Melville, said DOT spokeswoman Eileen Peters.

The workers needed to fill a 200-foot-wide hole in the eastbound lanes, where heat from the blaze baked the pavement, causing extensive damage and melting the 175-foot sign gantry, which crashed onto the eight-lane stretch of highway.

Peters said crews used 10 large dump trucks, two sand sweepers, two front-end loaders, two flatbed trucks and a cherry picker to repair the damage. The cleanup and repairs were completed about 21 hours after the accident, in which a truck driven by Mujahid Shah, 57, of Brooklyn, hit a Dodge Neon from behind, careened past the damaged car, and flipped over in the center of the road.

The driver of the Neon, Marie Medina, 29, of Bayonne, N.J., was treated at Nassau University Medical Center and released.

Newborn Construction officials could not be reached Sunday.

Mark Herbst, executive director of the Long Island Contractors Association, said the state has a contract with Newborn in the event of emergencies such as the one that occurred Saturday morning.

"That [contract] was put into play immediately," Herbst said. "This proves the value of our relationship" with the state.

Peters said that the state will work with the insurance company of the driver to recover the costs of the cleanup and repair.

"It's going to be a while before we know the exact cost," Peters said.

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