Holland Tunnel fire

Holland Tunnel Fire

Holland Tunnel fire

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The Holland Tunnel fire occurred on the morning of Friday, May 13, 1949, in a hazardous materials truck passing through the Holland Tunnel under the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey. The 1996 motion picture Daylight starring Sylvester Stallone, was loosely based on this incident.


At 8:30 a.m. a truck carrying eighty 55-gallon drums of carbon disulfide entered the south tunnel at the New Jersey portal. At the time, it was forbidden to carry carbon disulfide through the tunnel.

After the truck had traveled east for approximately 2900 feet (880 m) in heavy traffic, one of the drums broke free of its restraints, fell onto the roadway and cracked open. Vapor released from the drum was ignited when it came into contact with a hot surface, probably a brake or exhaust (carbon disulfide vapor ignites when raised to a temperature of 194 °F / 90 °C).

The truck came to rest in the left lane of the tunnel on a 0.25% downgrade and began to burn. Vehicles unable to pass the fire came to rest in the right lane, blocking the tunnel completely as their drivers sought to escape on foot. The tunnel west of the fire became gridlocked with traffic.

Port of New York Authority patrolmen in the tunnel east and west of the truck radioed in to advise of the blockage (8:48 a.m.) then to advise of the fire (8:56 a.m.). They assisted drivers to escape to the north tunnel through cross-passages. Tunnel staff entered the New Jersey...
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