A WOMAN who was involved in a three-car collision after a fuel tanker had broken down on the A38 has described her ordeal as "absolute chaos".
The 33-year-old mother of one was on her way home from work last Thursday when she saw the broken-down tanker at Tideford.
As she attempted to overtake the truck her car – and the car in front and behind her – collided, as black smoke billowed from the engine of the stricken tanker and blocked their view of the carriageway.
Hours later the tanker broke free from a rescue truck, ran backwards and jack-knifed, spilling 4,000 litres of unleaded petrol onto the road.
The woman said: "The tanker had broken down and I could see in the far distance that it had its hazard lights on.
"It was black because of the smoke and we couldn't see anything," she said.
She was also critical of the emergency services for the time it took for help to arrive.
"It was a disgrace. A lady who was involved in the accident is seven months' pregnant," she said. "It took the police well over half an hour to attend to us."
"No one came over to check we were OK."
However, police said units were on scene within 15 minutes.
No one was hurt during the incident.
A feared environmental disaster, as a result of the fuel spill from the truck, was narrowly avoided after desperate efforts were made to prevent petrol from spilling into the River Tiddy.
Paul Gainey, from the Environment Agency, said: "They managed to stop the majority of the fuel going into the River Tiddy."
Workers toiled through the night to prevent any major pollution to the river, which runs through the village of Tideford, and connects with the Tamar.
"Environmentally, the Tamar is a very important river for salmon," Mr Gainey said.
A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said: "The consequences of this incident could have been far worse, and we are extremely fortunate that no one was injured or killed.
"A motorcyclist could have been travelling behind. And if the accident had happened a mile sooner, the tanker could have crashed into houses.
"The incident caused major disruption, due to the type of vehicle involved and the fact that it spilled a hazardous substance onto the road."
Police said the tanker was fully laden with 47,000 litres of fuel at the time of the crash.
A full investigation has been launched by the Health and Safety Executive.