The fiery 25-car pileup on the Long Island Expressway in the Yapank area on Wednesday afternoon included a commercial vehicle from Montauk, but the two local men in the vehicle were not injured.
The driver of a Gurney's Beach Bakery delivery van and a helper are already on their way back home on Wednesday evening, according to Paul Monte, the general manager and CEO of Gurney's Inn Resort & Spa in Montauk.
"Our driver and his associate are both safe. They got checked out at the hospital," Monte said, adding his sorrow that there was at least one fatality. "It's very sad that some people did lose their lives."
There were also 32 individuals hospitalized at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital, Stony Brook University Hospital and Peconic Bay Medical Center. Two were considered serious, according to Suffolk County police.
Gurney's management received a call from the driver — whose name was not immediately released — soon after the accident occurred around 2:40 p.m. "He said he saw the truck barreling down behind them and he pulled over — the truck kind of sideswiped him," Monte explained.
"Fortunately he was able to get out of the way," Monte said. After the fiery crash that included at least 25 cars and tractor-trailer carrying mulch, the driver and helper began assisting those who were more injured, Monte said.
There was no significant damage to the Gurney's vehicle, Monte added.
The two men, whom Monte said are local to the East Hampton area, were returned to the South Fork after making deliveries of baked good further west. Gurney's Beach Bakery delivers to over 30 Stop & Shops as far as the Nassau County-Queens border.
Monte said he is thankful that the employees walked away unscathed. "It's terrible."
The crash closed the LIE between exits 66 to 69 and backed up traffic for miles.
As of 5 p.m., wrecked and smoldering cars still lined the roadway, and the tractor-trailer's cab was mostly burned away.
Police said the eastbound LIE will be closed throughout the night as they continue to investigate the crash and the westbound lane may open later this evening, but police could not yet given a specific time.
Ridge Fire Chief John Mirando, a 21-year-veteran of the fire department, called the scene the "most horrific scene I have ever saw."
With reporting by Erica Jackson.