PITTSTON — Peter Poland will never forget two things: Looking up to see the headlights of a van bearing down on him just 3 feet away and moments later rushing up the side of a New Jersey interstate to hug his best friend, Troy Chase.

Both were in tears after they discovered the other was still alive.

Between those moments, Poland said, the van struck him and knocked him over a guardrail, plowed through Chase’s cattle trailer in an explosion of metal, ran into a bull calf they had picked up that morning and into a New Jersey man walking up the road who had struck their parked trailer with his car earlier. The van killed both the animal and man, and then slammed into the back of the pickup truck Chase was still inside, knocking him unconscious and sending the truck rolling a quarter mile down the road.

The crash killed three people and injured a dozen more Saturday night.

Chase and Poland said they feel blessed and lucky they were not among those killed or seriously injured.

“I’ve still got my best friend, and that’s all that matters,” Chase said while discussing the accident in his Pittston barn Monday night.

Chase, 43, of Pittston, suffered minor injuries, including a concussion, and was taken to Overlook Medical Center in Summit, New Jersey. He was discharged from the hospital on Sunday, a hospital spokeswoman said. He was home in Maine later that day with the two surviving bull calves he and Poland, of Whitefield, had bought and picked up in Kentucky Saturday morning.

Poland was struck in the leg by the van but refused medical treatment at the scene.

Chase was driving a 2003 Dodge Ram truck north on Interstate 287 in Bernards Township, New Jersey, when he stopped on the right shoulder to repair a cattle trailer he was towing. He and Poland were headed home to Maine.

Poland said they saw smoke coming from a tire, so they pulled over onto a roughly 8- to 10-foot wide paved shoulder separated from the travel lanes by a rumble strip to check it out.

They discovered the axle was broken and were in the midst of making repairs to it so they could at least get the trailer off the interstate when a car Poland says they never saw hit the trailer, knocking it onto its side.

According to a news release from New Jersey State Police, at 10:32 p.m., Ravi Naik, 23, of Hillsborough, New Jersey, driving a 2013 Hyundai Elantra, struck the cattle trailer that was broken down on the right shoulder. After the collision, according to police, Naik parked on the right shoulder and left his vehicle.

Within a few minutes, a 2003 Ford passenger van carrying 13 people, also traveling north and driven by Xu Feng Ma, whose age and residence were not available from police, struck a guardrail, the cattle trailer and Naik, who was not in his vehicle at the time. The van veered across the northbound lanes and struck the left guardrail.

Naik and two unidentified passengers in the van were killed in the accident.

Climbing back over the guardrail after the van crashed, Poland tied up the two surviving calves, saw Naik stagger briefly and then collapse over the guardrail, and then realized in a panic there was no sign of Chase or his black pickup truck.

When the two burly, gruff men saw each other, Chase described their rush to get to each other like a scene in a movie where two people, in slow motion, run into each others arms.

“We was hugging and crying,” Poland said. “I cried my eyes out. I feel blessed by the Lord.”

Chase said he was crying, too, and he’s not too embarrassed to say it.

Naik was pronounced deceased at 11:35 p.m. at Morristown Medical Center. The two passengers, whose identities were not released by police, were pronounced dead at the scene at 1:40 a.m. Sunday. The names of the deceased were not released, pending notification of family, police said.

The van driver, Ma, and 10 passengers in the van suffered non-life-threatening injuries and were taken to area hospitals, according to police.

New Jersey State Police said the accident is still under investigation and no charges have been filed.

Even though the accident was not their fault, Poland said he feels bad that people died after the van ran into their stopped trailer. He can’t help but think those people would still be alive had their trailer not broken down and left them on the roadside.

He said he and Chase tried to help the most badly injured, the three who died in the accident.

Poland and Chase were both hurt but their adrenaline was flowing, they said.

The interstate was closed for several hours while police investigated. Bernards Township is about 30 miles from New York City.

The van driven by Ma was packed with 12 workers from the same restaurant who were returning from work, according to the New York Times.

The injured van passengers were taken to two different hospitals for treatment. Taken to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital were Yupa Ma, 52, of Woodhaven, New York; Erick Jiminez, 18, of Morristown, New Jersey; Engleton Jiminez, age and residence unlisted; Yoxeng Tan, 55, of Brooklyn, New York; Huijo He, 55, of New York, New York; Gudiel Jiminez, 18, of Morristown, New Jersey; and Kui Tung, 47, of Brooklyn, New York.

Taken to Morristown Medical Center were Hwa Chieng, 64, of Flushing, New York; Tao Qing Wu, 59, of Brooklyn, New York; and Duong Quoc, 54, of Brooklyn, New York.

Naik, the driver of the car which first struck Chase’s trailer who died after being struck by the van, worked in data analytics for a media marketing firm in Manhattan, his cousin told the New York Times. The cousin said Naik was returning from visiting a teenage boy from his community whom he was mentoring.

Chase called his wife, Maria, just after the crash while he was still in his truck, and said he needed her, then said he had to go because he had to find Pete and hung up.

“I was freaking out,” Maria Chase said.

She contacted Poland’s girlfriend, Joleen Myers, and the two heard from Poland, who called about 10 minutes later. Myers said it was a scary 10 minutes.

The two women were on their way to New Jersey by midnight, arriving early in the morning.

Poland and Chase said New Jersey State Police said they could not help them with the two surviving bull calves. Poland said a farmer in the area came on the scene, took the animals and kept them overnight.

With a totaled trailer and totaled truck, they had no way to get the animals the rest of the way home.

Poland said their friend, Julie Giles, of Limington, drove down to retrieve their animals Sunday.

Chase and Poland had traveled to Kentucky to pick up three pure-bred Chianina bulls, a two-month old that was killed in the crash, three-month old Bo and five-month-old Luke. Chase bought the calves because the breed is so gentle and friendly, he said. The two surviving animals, despite some cuts and other injuries, appeared to be settling in at their Pittston barn Monday evening, two nights after being struck by two different vehicles in their trailer in New Jersey.

Poland, a military veteran, said the accident is the worst thing he has ever seen.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

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Twitter: @kedwardskj