Tanker crash stuns N3

2015-11-25 10:03
A truck spilled its load of diesel after crashing into the barrier on the N3 north-bound after the Hilton offramp.

A truck spilled its load of diesel after crashing into the barrier on the N3 north-bound after the Hilton offramp. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - The driver of a diesel tanker stood in shock as he watched 37 000 litres of diesel flow down the N3 toward Cedara after he crashed into a construction barrier on Tuesday.

The driver, who did not want to be named, said he had been travelling “for days” loading and off-loading diesel from Durban to Middelberg.

The crash happened at around 2.30 pm yesterday near Grace College en route to Cedara.

“I saw the construction site but something happened with my tyre and there was just no avoiding it,” said the driver.

The tanker ploughed into concrete barriers separating the construction workers from the one usable lane open to traffic.

“Thankfully no one was injured. What we are most grateful for is the fact that it was diesel and not petrol,” said Rodney Trenam of the Msunduzi Fire Department.

Trenam explained that petrol has an ignition point of -43° Celsius which if exposed the way the diesel was, “there would have been a huge explosion”.

“Diesel has a flash point [the point at which it ignites]of 55° Celsius. While we are glad that it was diesel, at the same time diesel is damaging to the environment,” said Trenam.

He said that the diesel and accident clean up would take hours and since there are forests and dams nearby “it would involve big environmental rehabilitation exercises”.

The Witness left the scene at around 4 pm yesterday and the road was still not opened to traffic.

Hundreds of vehicles were stuck in traffic from Pietermaritzburg toward Cedara.

Trenam said after initial investigations, they suspected the diesel tanker may have had a tyre blow-out that caused the accident.

“Tyre blow-outs are common especially on trucks coming down this way. One must also take into account the fatigue these drivers experience after driving for days,” he said.

Numerous emergency services were on scene yesterday and bags of sand were brought in to stop the diesel from spilling further.

It was unclear which company the driver was transporting the diesel for, however the driver said that he was on his way to his next “drop-off” a few kilometres away.

• kailene.pillay@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  truck  |  accident

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