Justin Strzelczyk, a former player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, died Thursday in a fiery head-on collision with a tanker truck after he led state troopers on a 40-mile chase during morning rush hour in Herkimer, N.Y.
State police identified Strzelczyk, 36, an offensive lineman with the Steelers for nearly a decade until the team released him in February 2000.
Troopers said Strzelczyk crashed his pickup truck into the westbound tanker carrying corrosive acid just moments after swerving around a tractor-trailer that pulled across the highway to block the eastbound lanes. Strzelczyk drove 15 miles on three tires and a rim after one of his pickup’s tires was punctured by metal spikes thrown into the road by troopers.
“It could have been so much worse. We’re fortunate that only one person died,” said Trooper Jim Simpson, a state police spokesman.
Strzelczyk, who lived in McCandless, Pa., near Pittsburgh, had been involved in another minor hit-and-run accident about an hour earlier just west of Syracuse, which started the chase, Simpson said.
Simpson added Strzelczyk acted angrily at times, saying, “He was going down the road, flipping off the troopers. He even threw a beer bottle at them.”
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