It was a rough 12 hours for commuters on Route 78 in Hunterdon County overnight into Thursday, after two separate incidents -- a truck fire, and a crash that claimed one life.

Eastbound delays went back 15 miles to the Pennylvania border as crews blocked one lane for clean up of a tractor trailer fire that started around 12:45 a.m. near Route 31 in Clinton, according to State Police spokesman Trooper Alejandro Goez.

All lanes were closed for about four hours to clean up the fully engulfed truck carrying a load of rubber mulch. Two lanes were opened for traffic in the 5 a.m. hour but the delays continued to build with rubberneckers.

A hazardous material team was also at the fire scene, but Goez said there was no fuel spill.

"It was the worst morning on Route 78 in a long time," New Jersey Fast Traffic' Bob Williams said. He said Route 22 and 173 were heavy with traffic trying to get around the delays.

Route 78 was closed in both directions in Bethlehem earlier on Wednesday night when a Ford F250 with a trailer traveling west went over the concrete barrier, landing in the eastbound lanes just around 7 p.m. and hit a Nissan Sentra, Goez said.

The trailer overturned and remained across the westbound lanes shutting them down for about three hours. The eastbound lanes were also closed but two lanes were opened after an hour, according to Goez.

Goez said the driver of the Nissan, Asheesh Bhan, 37, of New Brunswick, was killed in the crash. A Toyota Sienna was also struck by debris but the driver was not injured, according to Goez.

Bhan's death was the sixth on Route 78 in Hunterdon and Somerset counties, according to State Police records

William McDowell, 73, of Chalfont, Pennsylvania was hospitalized with serious injuries while a passenger suffered minor injuries, Goez said.

Both crashes remained under investigation.

PIckup that landed on I-78 east
PIckup that landed on I-78 east (Fred Toomey)

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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