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'Liquid flowing like lava': 3 dead in NE Philly crash

Three young women were killed when a speeding Camaro crashed into a tractor-trailer in Holmesburg early Sunday.

Police and firefighters gather at the scene of a fatal crash on Torresdale Avenue near Rhawn Street.
Police and firefighters gather at the scene of a fatal crash on Torresdale Avenue near Rhawn Street.Read moreJOSEPH KACZMAREK / FOR THE DAILY NEWS

THE THREE young women were screaming from inside the mangled Camaro, but the flames were too intense. Nobody was getting them out until the fire was extinguished.

Yesterday afternoon, utility workers and a hazmat crew were still on the scene of a horrific early-morning wreck in Holmesburg that set off a chain reaction of explosions, coated the road with pesticides and left the three women dead.

The black Chevrolet Camaro was speeding on Torresdale Avenue near Rhawn Street around 2:45 a.m. when its driver lost control and smashed into a parked tractor-trailer, according to the preliminary police investigation.

Both the car - which went airborne - and the tractor-trailer burst into flames, police said. The occupants of the car - all in their early 20s - died at the scene. A witness reportedly heard them yelling but was unable to enter the car.

"A witness on the scene said that he could hear people screaming from inside the car and attempted to render aid to them, but he couldn't get to the vehicle due to the flames," Police Capt. Anthony Ginaldi told reporters.

Police had not identified the victims as of last night. Two bouquets of flowers were resting against a tree near the scene yesterday afternoon.

A man who identified himself as Dan told NBC10 that he smashed the passenger window to try to help the women, but that the fire was too intense.

"Before I knew it, the entire car was engulfed in flames. There was nothing I could have done," he said, holding back tears.

"I just want the families to know, of whoever these victims are, this close to Christmas, that I tried. I tried to do everything I could to get them out of that vehicle. I tried. And I'm sorry that I couldn't."

Live wires or leaked fuel apparently caused the flames to spread to a second parked tractor-trailer, which also became engulfed, police said. The tractor-trailers were unoccupied.

"The first truck was already engulfed in flames, then I saw this liquid flowing like lava on a slope. I guess it was gasoline. Because of that, the second tractor- trailer started burning," said Oleg Djimbinov, who was driving on Torresdale Avenue after the accident and shot video of the fire. "There were a lot of explosions. It took like three to five minutes for the whole thing to burst into flames."

The Philadelphia Fire Department said its hazmat team responded to the crash site due to reports of pesticides in one of the two tractor-trailers that caught fire. Fuel spilled from the crash and flowed beneath another parked truck, causing it to become engulfed in flames as well, authorities said.

A Comcast spokeswoman said the fire severed fiber-optic lines, causing an outage in an area near the accident. She said Comcast did not know exactly how many customers lost service. Some customers had service restored by 4 p.m. An hour later, she said the company was still working to get service restored to all affected customers.

PECO spokesman Ben Armstrong said the electric company sent a response team to the site in case it had to interrupt service, but he said the accident had caused no outages in the Holmesburg area.

No further information about the victims was released by police, pending a report from the Medical Examiner's Office.

- Staff writers Rob Tornoe

and William Bender

contributed to this report.


On Twitter: @ValerieRussDN