A tanker truck used to transport portable toilet waste struck a state trooper's car on the northbound section of the Niagara Thruway this morning as the trooper was arresting a motorist on drunken-driving charges, setting off a four-vehicle accident.
The accident, which happened about 9:25 a.m. just south of the Church Street entrance from downtown Buffalo, caused no serious injuries but backed up traffic for miles.
Witnesses said a Modern Disposal tanker struck the rear of the state trooper's car and ran up and over the driver's side of the vehicle. The tanker then struck a new Dodge minivan, which in turn struck a Buick Regal, causing them both to slam into the concrete median.
"I saw the truck barreling down the road and hit the trooper's (car) that was stopped on the side," said Christel Kasprzak, 47, of Depew, who was driving the minivan.
Wendy Shuster, of Cheektowaga, watched the accident unfold from her car, which was not involved.
"The blue truck didn't see the trooper, and he nailed him," Shuster said. "Everything went from there. I couldn't believe it. I was stunned."
The accident occurred on a dangerous stretch of the roadway. It happened across from the southbound lanes, where an auto carrier struck a van in 1998, killing six people. The same area was the scene of a 1992 accident that killed four people when steel coils came off the back of a tractor-trailer.
State Police said Trooper Phil Harris was arresting a driver, identified as Andrew Stewart, 44, of Hudson Street, Buffalo, on charges of driving while intoxicated, when today's accident occurred.
Harris was able to crawl out of his trooper car following the accident, but Buffalo firefighters had to use the Jaws of Life to pull Stewart from the vehicle. Both were taken to local hospitals, but their injuries were not believed serious.
Kasprzak, the driver of the minivan, also was not injured, nor were two men, whose names were not available, who were in the Buick Regal.