Fiery crash ends life of ex-NFL player

Katrina Francis

Ex-NFL player Justin Strzelczyk was killed early Thurs. morning following a police pursuit and fiery collision in upstate N.Y.

After an early-morning hit-and-run near Syracuse, police were put on alert for a pickup truck. When they spotted a vehicle driven by Strzelczyk matching the description 40 minutes later, they attempted to stop it.

Strzelczyk, 36, led the police on a 40-mile chase, giving no regard to attempts to stop him. Ignoring the “stop sticks” police had laid across the road, he continued to drive with only three tires and a rim for 15 miles. A trucker who saw the chase tried to create his own blockade by pulling his truck across the road. To avoid the truck, Strzelczyk drove across the median into oncoming traffic, where he eventually crashed into an empty tanker truck driven by Harold Jackson, 60.

The crash resulted in Strzelczyk’s death, the only fatality in the chase. His pickup truck was destroyed by the fire after the collision, and was almost unrecognizable. ‘It looked like an airplane crash. There was quite a lot of diesel fuel spilled that was burning,” police spokesman Trooper Jim Simpson said.

Jackson was rushed to a local hospital where he was treated for minor injuries and later released.

Police suspect that Strzelczyk was intoxicated, though they cannot confirm this until the toxicity reports are returned. According to Simpson, Strzelcyk was drinking a beer during the chase, making obscene gestures and even threw a bottle out the window at pursuing officers.

Strzelczyk was an offensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers for nine years, and played in the 1995 Super Bowl.

He suffered from mental illness, according to his mother, Mary Joyce Strzelczyk. “I had seen trouble with his mood disorders coming,” she said.

The chase is currently under investigation by the New York state’s bureau of internal affairs, as is typical procedure for high speed chases.