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Trooper on Bridge Fatality: 'One of the Worst I've Seen'

A New York State Police sergeant discusses the scene of a horrific wrong-way Tappan Zee Bridge accident.

Inner photo credit: Tony Tony Troiano, who was five cars behind the accident
Inner photo credit: Tony Tony Troiano, who was five cars behind the accident
By Krista Madsen

Sgt. William Collins of State Police Troop T who responded to the scene of last week's horrific five-car pile-up that resulted in one death, said the accident ranked among the worst he's seen on the bridge.

While Collins couldn't comment on the cause of the accident or on some reports that the wrong-way driver who started the chain event of crashes may have had an anxiety attack, he could speak to its aftermath.

"I've been out there for seven years, and this is one of the two worst I've seen." He said the other accident fixed in his memory is a tractor trailer flipping, with the driver dying, about four or five years ago. 

The initial alert from County Fire Control on Tuesday, July 23 at 8:49 p.m. said there was a tractor trailer jack-knifed, possibly rolled over, requiring extrication on the bridge. Collins said this may have been due to the fact that a truck did pull sideways across the bridge to stop any further cars from getting involved in the accident. 

"They'll do that to try to save more people," Collins said, though he said in this case it probably didn't make a difference as the truck driver was about 200-300 feet back with many cars in front of him.

Troopers called Tarrytown police for assistance at 9:43 p.m. with directing traffic off of the bridge back onto Route 9 utilizing the Route 9 on-ramp. 

There were numerous cars trapped for up to five hours on the bridge, Collins said. And in some cases, tempers flared. Tarrytown police received a call to send an ambulance to the bridge for an alleged assault at 11:06 p.m. Collins said officials found nothing when they arrived at the scene. 

It took hours to clear the bridge because, he said, police had to start at the end and work their way in. "It takes a while to move three miles worth of cars." 

Unrelated, Collins said, was the request to Tarrytown Fire Department to assist with wires on fire at the Tarrytown state trooper barracks at 9:09 p.m. But together, this certainly added to a historically busy night for these emergency responders.

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