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Fuel tanker causes havoc on A38 at Tideford

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: December 21, 2012

  • 14/12/2012 - Petrol Tanker incident involving a leaK of 1000's of gallons of petrol on the A38 near Tideford which closed the road for nearly 24 hours.

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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.

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  • sambolewis  |  December 22 2012, 7:26PM

    You are all talking a load of ****. I was passing on the opposite side of the A38 when these poor souls where passing the Tanker on the side of the road. It was fine one second and then the next the engine blew on the tanker. The poor people driving pass it on the duel carriage way. No chance of knowing that was going to happen.

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  • Twixter  |  December 22 2012, 6:28PM

    @ JMonners You should go and work for the Daily Mail - are you sure the tanker wasn't also laden with plastic explosives, or perhaps carrying nuclear waste?! If you actually read the article you would be aware that the tanker was not on its side at the time of the overtaking accident, it was simply broken down at the side of the road. It was "hours" later before the tanker broke free of the rescue truck and jack-knifed.

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  • JMonners  |  December 22 2012, 5:12PM

    @ poddingtonpea so you see a petrol tanker on its side billowing smoke and you want to drive past it? Unbelievable!!!

  • poddingtonpea  |  December 22 2012, 10:13AM

    To all the comments, the visibility was CLEAR in the distance at the time of overtaking the tanker! The tankers engine blew its fumes VERY QUICKLY so much so that by that time driving in the fast lane of a busy carriageway with cars in front and behind THE TANKER to the side of you there is NO WHERE to go or safely pull in let alone in pure BLACK SMOKE!!! Even well after the accident with very dangerous driving conditions with smog covering the road not ONE CAR pulled in to asses whether it was safe to keep driving...I wander if that is because potentially that tanker could of gone up in flames....Yes I agree it is lucky no one injured.

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  • poldice  |  December 21 2012, 5:41PM

    If that tanker was loaded with 47,000 litres it would have been overloaded as the absolute maximum load of petrol would be circa 42,500 litres, given that part of the load was apparently diesel which is heavier it would have been less. These trucks are operated by national sub contractors to major oil companies running on razor thin margins, to be profitable they operate 24/7 with trucks not adequately specified for the hilly terrain in Devon snd Cornwall, that is probably what led top the catastrophic engine failure. It is also illegal to tow laden artics, the trailer should be detached and recvered by another tractor unit, however these particular trucks to minimise weight in order to maximise payload carry no landing legs to enable the trailer to be uncoupled in the event of a breakdown. Hence why the combined unit broke away from the tow truck with potentially catastrophic consequences. That does not absolve the female motorist from blame as she should not have risked what she did given the limited visibilty described, the red herring that she was pregnant merely increases the imperative on her to be prudent. Non doubt this incident will bring yet more regulation down on the heads of responsible fuel tanker operators who use trailers that can be easily uncoupled despite the weight penalty incurred, at the very least all fuel tanker trailers should be capable of being quickly detached from their prime movers in the event of any emergency.

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  • josdave  |  December 21 2012, 1:38PM

    Agreed it was her own fault for being so impatient. It's clear she just couldn't wait for it to be safe to overtake and got what she deserved.

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  • JMonners  |  December 21 2012, 11:16AM

    What is a disgrace is you tried to overtake a broken down vehicle that was billowing black smoke and blocking your view. Always critical of other people but take a look at your own stupid actions and think yourself lucky that you werent killed by someone doing the same thing in the opposite direction. Stupid woman!!!

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