State Police ID two men killed in Thruway crash

Updated: 07/01/2014 5:48 PM
Created: 07/01/2014 12:40 PM WHEC.com
By: Jennifer Mobilia

News10NBC is learning more about the two men killed in a fiery crash on the Thruway Monday. Both were Genesee County residents.

State Police say one of the victims is 25-year-old Christopher Rheinheimer, of Darien. Investigators say Rheinheimer and the other man killed, 51-year-old Michael Pehrson, of Batavia, were in a pickup truck that was hit head-on by another truck on the westbound side of the Thruway near West Bloomfield Road. That’s between the Victor and Henrietta exits.

Things were back to normal Tuesday on the New York State Thruway, but things are far from normal for several families involved in Monday’s deadly crash. State Police released new information Tuesday about how this tragedy unfolded. 

State Police say around 4:30 p.m. Monday, a commercial vehicle, hauling a dumpster, veered off the eastbound lanes of the Thruway and into the westbound lanes, taking out guardrails and colliding head-on with a pickup truck.

News10NBC spoke with a man working nearby who heard the crash.

Peter Floramo said, “The explosions, people were screaming and you kind of felt helpless because there was nothing I could do to help these people."

Authorities say the two men inside the pickup were killed. They have been identified as 51-year-old Michael Pehrson, of Batavia, and 25-year-old Christopher Rheinheimer, of Darien. News10NBC went to both victims’ homes, but their families were too upset to talk. Rheinheimer’s young brother said his family just buried his grandmother last week. He says his brother leaves behind a five-year-old son.

The driver of the commercial vehicle works for B&B Recycling. News10NBC spoke to the owner’s daughter Tuesday. She said driver, Roger Labar, 51, of Plattsburgh, worked for her family for four years and to the best of her knowledge has never had an accident. She says he remains hospitalized at Strong Hospital, but is expected to be okay.

As for the driver of the semi-truck that burst into flames, state police say he hit a guardrail that had been ripped out of the ground during the crash. The guardrail punctured the semi’s fuel tank. Authorities say he was able to make it out of the cab safely before it became engulfed in flames.

Floramo said, "Next thing we know, we heard a loud explosion. It was something I had never heard before. So we ran through the field and got to the Thruway and that is when we saw a truck completely engulfed in flames."

Troopers say three other vehicles were a part of the chain reaction crash.  One of the drivers, a 70-year-old man from Canandaigua, was taken to Strong Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.   

No charges have been filed, but state police say they are continuing to investigate.

During the investigation, the westbound lanes of the Thruway near mile marker 355 was closed for six hours.

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