An elderly man is dead and a second is fighting for his life, after a crash that has closed eastbound Highway 401 at Thickson Road in Oshawa. ((Tony Smyth/CBC))

A man is dead and another is in critical condition after a fiery crash on the 401 near Whitby just before midnight.

Witnesses said a car was apparently driving in reverse on the highway when a tractor-trailer smashed into it near Thickson Road.

Ministry of Transportation staff who were working nearby saw the car burst into flames and were able to pull the passenger out of the burning vehicle, but were not able to save the driver, who was pronounced dead at Sunnybrook Hospital.

The passenger is in hospital with life-threatening injuries and the driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured. No names have been released. 

The eastbound lanes of the highway are open, but Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Dave Woodford said the on-ramp will likely remain closed for most of Monday morning.