MANHATTAN – A minivan burst into flames in the middle of traffic on the FDR Drive just south of the East 96th Street exit on the Upper East Side. The scene, like something out of movie— at first traffic tried to pass by the burning van, but it was quickly engulfed in a ball of fire in the northbound lanes.
The flames sparked in the vehicles engine compartment around 9:30 pm Friday night— the response from firefighters to douse the flames shut down the highway in both directions for almost an hour. Crews forced open the trunk to blast it with water and gave the engine a second round of hosing for good measure.
As firefighters hosed down the van, a motorcycle swerved round the NYPD cruiser parked sideways to block traffic across the highway and raced through the scene— the biker was wearing a large white cooler backpack like those worn by food delivery app workers. No one was hurt during those reckless actions.
Within minutes of firefighters knocking down the flames, a flat bed tow truck had come up the off-ramp to the FDR drive and backed up to the burned out minivan. The driver used a winch to pull van up the flatbed, the tires had melted off so the metal of bare rims scraped their way into place.
Anxious drivers poked their heads out of windows and sunroofs, trying to get a glimpse at the situation that had them stuck in bumper-to-bumper parked traffic on a Friday night. One woman abandoned her taxi and climbed over the fence separating the roadway from the East River esplanade.
Dragging a large piece of luggage— and likely coming from an airport— she told Upper East Site there was ‘no way’ she was was waiting in the stopped traffic.
By 10:30 pm, the scene had been cleaned up and traffic was being let through again. We’ve reached out to officials to find out if there were any injures— we’re waiting to hear back and will provide updates as they come.