The 1949 Holland Tunnel fire
Having something like this happen goes through the mind of anyone who has ever driven in a tunnel (or seen the movie Daylight). On May 13th, 1949, a truck carrying barrels of carbon disulfide had one of the barrels break free while the truck was in the Holland Tunnel, heading from New Jersey to New York. The barrel cracked open and the vapor that escaped caught fire, engulfing the truck in flames. According to a New York Times article of the time, at least a dozen other trucks in the tube caught fire, as well.
It was 8:30 in the morning and the tunnel was crowded. The Times reports “scenes of stark terror” as the tunnel filled with “yellowish-black smoke from the noxious gasses.” Traffic had come to a halt and drivers scrambled from their cars and fled, most to the New Jersey side since the truck was about half a mile into the tube, closer to the Jersey entrance.
The explosions and fire damaged an approximately 300 foot section of the tunnel, tearing away concrete, but the integrity of the tunnel held. The Jersey City Fire Department, along with crews from the Port Authority and New York, eventually contained the fire. Sixty-six people were injured, with 27 hospitalized, mostly for smoke inhalation. One firefighter suffered smoke damage that led to his death several months later. Eventually, the trucking company, Apex Express of Perth Amboy, was barred from using the tunnel.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.