Kailene Pillay
2 minute read
26 Apr 2016
12:16

Inferno on N3 as tanker explodes

Kailene Pillay

Two people were killed, two were badly burnt and five, including a policeman, were injured after a petrol tanker crashed and exploded on the N3 at Townhill on Monday afternoon.

Pietermaritzburg – Two people were killed, two were badly burnt and five, including a policeman, were injured after a petrol tanker crashed and exploded on the N3 at Townhill on Monday afternoon.

Both carriageways of the N3 freeway were closed to traffic after the tanker apparently crashed into a 13-ton surface milling machine near a construction site on the freeway, before slamming into the barrier wall.

Emergency services personnel at the scene said it was too soon to determine the cause of the accident. However, an eyewitness, Kimara Pillay, said the tanker hit the barrier wall and “picked up into the air”.

“It looked like it was going to tip over but then we heard the explosion,” said Pillay.

One construction worker was severely burnt and police later found another body in the exploded tanker.

Pillay, travelling from Johannesburg toward Durban, said she was still shaking from shock after the explosion.

“The tanker was about five cars before me and the driver suddenly cut across the lanes. When he did that I saw the tanker wobbling and I said to my boyfriend that it looked as if the truck’s brakes had failed,” said Pillay.

She said she saw the tanker “wipe out” a machine working on the side of the road before exploding.

“We stopped the car immediately and thank God the vehicles behind us stopped in time too. We all just turned around and drove away from the explosion,” she said.

Pillay said she felt the vibrations of the first explosion and then three other explosions followed shortly afterwards.

“We turned the car around and drove up towards the oncoming traffic. We tried to warn others not to continue down the road. It was extremely scary and the fire was bigger than I have ever seen,” Pillay said.

One of the workers driving the surface milling machine said he was cleaning the road when he felt the impact.

“My machine wasn’t facing the tanker. I just felt the impact and then heard the explosion and I was thrown off the machine not knowing what was going on,” said the construction worker, who did not reveal his name.

ER24 spokesperson Paul Knoesen said their teams treated two patients who suffered second-degree burns over more than 90% of their bodies. “We sedated the two patients and put them on ventilators at the scene. They were taken to the Hilton Life Hospital,” said Knoesen.

Two more construction workers were treated for serious injuries. One had a fractured leg and the other severe burns on his back.

“There were two other patients with minor injuries and they were taken to the Medi-Clinic hospital,” Knoesen said.

It is believed a police vehicle was also involved in the collision further down the freeway and an officer suffered severe burns to his body.

• kailene.pillay@witness.co.za