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Driver Critically Injured In NJ Turnpike Crash That Left Tractor-Trailer Dangling Off Roadway

RIDGEFIELD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A truck driver who fell into a creek after his tractor-trailer crashed through a guardrail and burst into flames along the New Jersey Turnpike is in critical condition.

It happened around 5:50 a.m. on the northbound side where the turnpike meets Interstate 80 in Ridgefield. Video from the scene shows the scorched cab dangling off the roadway above the Overpeck Creek.

Driver Rescued After NJ Turnpike Crash

State troopers Jason Serrano, Luis Cardenas and Mohammed Hussein were first on the scene and found their way down to the creek, where they located the driver, 66-year-old Lawrence Scherf of Vails Gate, New York.

"He was conscious, he was alert, but he was traumatized and in shock," Serrano said. "Approximately 65 to 75 percent of his body was burnt."

Troopers Luis Cardenas , Mohammed Hussein and Jason Serrano were first on the scene of a tractor-trailer crash on the New Jersey Turnpike on Aug. 19, 2014. (credit: Juliet Papa/1010 WINS)

Scherf told Serrano that he had been trapped inside the cab when it caught fire.

"It began to burn and he found a way to get out of the cab before he pretty much would burn to death," Serrano said. "There was actually seatbelt melted to his person."

The troopers formed a human chain and used a fire department basket to rescue Scherf, who was then airlifted to a hospital with burns and lacerations. He has since been transferred to St. Barnabas Hospital and is in a medically induced coma, CBS 2's Diane Macedo reported.

The three troopers were taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons. As CBS 2's Don Champion reported, the troopers had to be decontaminated because of the condition of the water they pulled the driver out of.

The cause of the crash of the truck owned by National Freight Inc., of Indiana, is under investigation.

National Freight would not say where the driver was headed or how long he had been on the clock, Champion reported.

"Our utmost concern right now is on the condition of our driver. We are very grateful for the efforts of the NJ State Troopers who rescued our driver from Overpeck Creek,'' the company said in a statement.

The crash caused traffic to be backed up for miles and motorists headed for the George Washington Bridge faced delays.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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