Authority Police Officers Michael Wholeyleft and David LeMagneright last
seen in this picture assisting in the evacuation on 9/11/01. They
immediately ran back in to assist in further rescue, never to be seen
The fire started around 8:30
Friday, May 13 1949 when a drum of carbon disulfide fell off a trailer truck about a third of the way into the tunnel. The highly
flammable chemical leaked out onto the hot surfaces of the truck.
1949, trucks were required to display decals to signify the
transportation of dangerous cargo. This tractor-trailer entered the
tunnel without decals, and police were completely unaware of the
potentially hazardous chemicals moving through the tunnel. Had they
known, the fire might never have occurred as the truck would have been
redirected to one of the bridges instead.
Minutes after the fire began, Port Authority
Police officers started helping drivers escape to safety. Three bus loads of children were stopped at
the entrance of the tunnel when the fire occurred.
Firemen entered the eastbound tube from the New Jersey side
and worked their way through more than a hundred automobiles, buses and
By 1:00 p.m., the fire had been
In total, ten trucks
were destroyed, dozens of cars lost, and 600 feet of tunnel was badly
damaged. The fire caused $1 million in damages or an estimated $7.5
million in today’s dollars.
Some 2600 long distance message
circuits that depended on five cables laid through the tunnel were put
out of service.
More than 650 tons of debris were removed from the
tunnel by a crew working round-the-clock.
The former Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Friday that the governor knew about the lane closings when they were happening, and that he had the evidence to prove it.
In a letter released by his lawyer, the official, David Wildstein, a high school friend of Mr. Christie’s who was appointed with the governor’s blessing at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge, described the order to close the lanes as “the Christie administration’s order” and said “evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference” three weeks ago.
“Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some,” the letter added.
The letter marked the first signal that Mr. Christie may have been aware of the closings, something he repeatedly denied during thenews conference.
In early January, documents revealed that a deputy chief of staff to Mr. Christie, Bridget Anne Kelly, had sent an email to Mr. Wildstein saying, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” the town at the New Jersey end of the bridge, where Mr. Christie’s aides had pursued but failed to receive an endorsement from the mayor.