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A van loaded with barrels of liquid soap going to medical buildings blew a tire on the FDR Drive, causing it to hit an attenuator barrier and flip over onto a highway divider, police said.
The white late-model van, originating from Pennsylvania, was loaded with blue barrels of liquid soap, adding to the weight of the vehicle, but it was unclear whether that contributed to the crash at East Houston Street exit 5 in view of the Williamsburg Bridge just before 1 p.m. Monday.
Numerous witnesses out for a walk in the neighboring East River Park and many people in the Baruch Houses across the street, witnessed the crash as it was happening. Many witnesses in the park ran to the aid of the driver, who was briefly trapped in the overturned van and suffering injuries.
Police from the 7th Precinct, highway and FDNY rushed to the scene and treated the man from the van for injuries. No other vehicles were involved in the crash. The highway was brought to a complete halt for nearly 40 minutes traveling north until the van could be cleared.
“I was looking out my window and then the tire exploded on the van which made him hit the yellow barrels filled with sand and the exit sign,” said Danny Ayala, a resident of the Baruch Houses “The thing just started flipping and end up on the divider. Unbelievable.”
“I was standing right here on the bike path when the van hit the yellow barriers, and flipped over and ended up right here right next to me – he was going really fast,” said Jimmy Sepula of Baruch Houses.
“I was standing inside the park with my dog, I heard a screech and I looked and I saw the van flying in the air and landed right there,” said Louis Cosme of Houston Street. “I ran over to see what we can do to help and a couple of guys pulled him out. Everything was so quick.”
The van was carrying 50-gallon drums of the soap product from Sun Labs, fire officials say. It was unclear where exactly the soap was going, except that it was destined to go to medical centers, firefighters say.
An earlier crash on the FDR Drive at East 79th Street between two vehicles injured two people, none seriously, police say.