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Man Burns 60% of Body in Tractor-Trailer Crash, Remains Critical

A fire completely engulfed the driver's truck and spread to trees surrounding the highway, police said

A Massachusetts man who burned over 60% of his body in a tractor-trailer accident on Route 287 North in Mahwah Tuesday night remained in critical condition Wednesday evening, Mahwah Police said.

Clarence J. Belton, 64, of Chicopee, Mass., likely fell asleep at the wheel of his truck, or suffered from a medical condition that caused him to veer off the road at about 10:35 p.m. Tuesday, Mahwah Lt. Philip Tangel, one of the officers who responded to the scene of the accident, told Patch Wednesday morning.

Belton’s tractor-trailer struck another tractor-trailer that was parked on the shoulder of the highway, drove through the guardrail and careened into the woods, he said.

“In doing so, he punctured the gas tanks in his truck, and the entire tractor-trailer was engulfed in flames, and the driver, himself was completely engulfed in flames,” Tangel said.

When police arrived to the scene, Belton had dragged himself out of the truck, and was lying on the ground next to it burning, he said. Tangel and responding officer Sgt. Rob Curtis used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire that police said had burned off all of Belton’s clothing and skin from the chest down.

“Over 60% of his body had third degree burns, from his chest down to his toes” Tangel said.

Belton was transported via Mahwah Ambulance to Hackensack University Medical Center where he was stabilized, and then transported to the Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Hospital in Livingston, police said. He remained in critical condition Wednesday morning.

The Mahwah Fire Department and Franklin Lakes Fire Department fought the blaze that completely destroyed the tractor-trailer, which was hauling milk cartons, and had spread to the trees surrounding the accident, Tangel said. The fire was out by Wednesday morning.

The driver of the parked truck, which was carrying new cars, suffered minor leg injuries, police said.

Dacnys Camejo, 29, of Miami, Fl., was transported via Mahwah Ambulance to Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, N.Y., police said.

New Jersey State Police are investigating the accident.

Route 287 remained closed for hours Tuesday night into Wednesday morning as authorities continued to clean up debris from the accident and subsequent fire.

Submit your questions or news tips to jessica.mazzola@patch.com. And, remember to sign up for Patch's daily newsletter, and get updates on Facebook and Twitter.

JUANITA January 17, 2013 at 02:44 AM
THIS IS MY UNCLE N I'M GLAD HE'S OK I'M GLUM 2 V HIM THIS WK...LUV U UNCLE CLARENCE...
TANYA BELTON MCNAIR January 17, 2013 at 10:31 PM
HEY JUANITA, THIS IS CLARENCE DAUGHTER CAN U CONTACT ME THROUGH EMAIL. I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHAT OTHER INFORMATION YOU HAVE ABOUT THE ACCIDENT. (tanyamcnair90@yahoo.com)
LM O'Malley January 18, 2013 at 04:40 AM
Long-time friend of Clarence's. Praying for his recovery. Linda O'M -- NH
Danielle Brooks January 19, 2013 at 08:27 PM
I work at Plantation Inn in Chicopee MA. Clarence has been a friend and my long time exchange a book partner. I am praying for his health as well as all of us who loved him at the Plantation Inn. He is a friend to all of us here. Please post up dates. Danielle Brooks.
Bruce Rivest March 08, 2014 at 09:36 AM
tanya, please have clarence call me. 413 538 8397... thank you

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