That was close: driver Peter O’Donnell escaped unharmed but his truck cabin was annihilated after it burst into flames on the Hamilton Highway near Darlington yesterday. A TRUCK driver was yesterday thanking his lucky stars that he survived after the cabin of his B-double tanker burst into flames as he was hauling a load of sulphuric acid.
Nanjing Night Net

Peter O’Donnell, from Melbourne, was on his way to Hamilton carrying 19,000 litres of the dangerous substance when he noticed a small amount of smoke. “I pulled over and there was a flame under the right-hand side of the cabin,” he said.

“I just didn’t realise how quickly it would go up.”

“There’s not much left of the old girl.”

Mr O’Donnell has been driving trucks for 30 years and said it was the last thing he expected to happen.

He said another truck pulled over to help and they both used their fire extinguishers to put the flames out and called triple zero.

“We used the fire extinguisher but it was just too windy,” Mr O’Donnell said yesterday.

“It could have been worse. It didn’t do any damage to the tanks.”

Warrnambool CFA operations officer Henry Barton said the wind directions helped to move the fire direction away from the tanks.

“We were lucky with the wind,” he said.

“Sulphuric acid won’t explode but it can give off a toxic vapour.

“The brigades got here quickly and had it all confined to the cabin.

“We did have crews for air monitoring but it was all OK.

“It’s fairly typical for it to happen quickly when the fire is in the motor. He’s very lucky to have had the time to pull up to the side of the road. The fibreglass, rubber and vinyl burn quickly.”

Acting Sergeant Stephen Clissold, from Terang police, said the incident was called in at 10.38am.

“I’d say the driver was very lucky,” he said. Acting Sergeant Clissold praised the work of fire crews from Woorndoo, Noorat, Wooriwyrite, Mortlake and a Warrnambool hazmat unit. “They were here quickly and brought it under control,” he said.

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