PARAMUS, N.J. -- A disabled tractor-trailer was struck by another on northbound Route 17 in Paramus before dawn Wednesday, flinging steel beams into two cars on the other side of the highway, seriously injuring one of the driver, authorities said.
A 63-year-old Jersey City driver was carrying home tiles when his rig broke down in the center lane of the northbound highway just after 5:45 a.m., Deputy Police Chief Robert Guidetti said.
"The driver reported he was slowing for traffic when the trailers brakes locked up," Guidetti said, so he "activated his four-way flashers and phoned for assistance."
Moments later, 50-year-old Brooklyn driver behind the wheel of a tractor pulling a load of steel beams merged from the right to the center lane of the northbound Route 17 to avoid a vehicle entering the highway from Farview Avenue, Guidetti said.
He tried to avoid a collision with the disabled rig by quickly shifting to the left lane, the deputy chief said, but the tractor hit the rear of the tile trailer and then the center median -- sending the beams across the highway and jack-knifing the first rig.
One beam weighng about a ton and a half crossed the divider and struck a 2014 Toyota Corrolla headed south in the left lane.
The 56-year-old driver from Thiells, NY sustained injuries that Guidetti called serious but not life-threatening.
The Paramus Rescue Squad extricated him for transport to Hackensack University Medical Center, the deputy chief said.
A 48-year-old Midland Park man also was hospitalied after complaining of chest and back pain after his 2005 Ford Escort was struck by a beam, he said.
State Department of Transportation crews helped divert traffic and remove the steel, while two crews from Bergen Brookside removed the jack-knifed tractor-trailer to partially open northbound Route 17.
The southbound highway was reopend by 7:40 a.m.
The northbound side was reopened at 9:45 a.m.
The Paramus Police Traffic Division was investigating the incident with the New Jersey State Police Comemrcial Carrier Safety Inspection Unit.