MANCHESTER — A deer that ran onto Route 37 led to the massive explosion of a tanker truck carrying nearly 9,000 gallons early Wednesday morning and a close call for an 18-year-old driver.

The massive explosion sent a huge fireball into the air and set fire to the pavement and the surrounding woods. It also caused damage to a business, according to police.

A Honda heading east in Manchester around 3 a.m. spun around after hitting a deer and became disabled in the middle of the two-lane road, according to Manchester police.

As driver Marissa Patterson, 18, of the Forked River section of Lacey, stood on the side of the road to call police, a tanker truck also heading east struck the Honda, pushing it forward as the truck swerved and hit the concrete jersey barrier.

Explosion from a tanker truck fire on Route 37 in Manchester (Ocean County Sheriff's Office)

Fireball lights up the sky

The cab and the tanker became separated causing the gas to spill and the tanker to explode in a massive fireball as it came to rest on the shoulder along the westbound lanes.

The fire caused damage to the roadway shutting it down in both directions between Colonial Drive and Commonwealth Boulevard for over 12 hours as the road was decontaminated and cleaned. It was reopened around 3:30 p.m.

A picture of the crash scene showed only the charred shell of the Honda in the roadway.

Explosion from a tanker truck fire on Route 37 in Manchester (OCSN)

The crash also knocked out phone service to the Manchester municipal complex, which includes police headquarters. Service has since been restored.

No one was injured in the crash and the driver of the truck, Svilen Ivanov, 46, of Voorhees, was checked over at Community Medical Center in Toms River.

Aftermath of a tanker truck fire on Route 37 in Manchester (Manchester police)

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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