By BELINDA SCOTT
COL Pryor had a lucky escape from death on Saturday afternoon when the milk tanker he was driving rolled belly-up on Upper Orara Road shortly after 3pm, trapping him in the partially-crushed cabin.
About 4000 litres of milk leaked into a waterway and two farm dams from the damaged tanker and Upper Orara Road was blocked for three hours by the rescue and cleanup operation.
The tanker was collecting milk from Orara Valley farms for the Norco Dairy Co-operative.
The vehicle was travelling north carrying about 22,000 litres of milk when it flipped on to its roof and slid off the road as it negotiated a bend about 1.5 km from the Karangi turnoff.
Using the jaws of life, SES volunteers freed 57-year-old Mr Pryor, who was trapped upside down with his head out of the window of the crushed cabin.
Mr Pryor was described as dazed and shocked but conscious by Dairyville residents Linda Willsher and her son, Peter Dyball, who arrived on the scene just after the accident occurred. Mrs Willsher said Mr Pryor told them he was pinned in the cabin by his knees.
Mr Dyball and another man reassured Mr Pryor and supported his head until he was freed by the SES. Mr Pryor was then taken by ambulance to Coffs Harbour Health Campus. He was discharged from hospital on Sunday.
The accident was also attended by Karangi and Upper Orara Rural Fire Service, Coffs Harbour Police, Coffs Harbour Fire Brigade and its hazardous materials unit, an RTA inspector, and a Coffs Harbour City Council environmental officer.
Another milk tanker was called to pump out the bulk of the milk from the rolled tanker but an estimated 5000 litres leaked out.
About 4000 litres is estimated to have leaked into a reed-filled gully and two farm dams, before Karangi farmer Dean Seccombe arrived with his tractor and swiftly dug an earth bund to contain the leaking milk. The milk in the bund was subsequently pumped out by a Cleanaway tanker.
Two specialist heavy haulage towing vehicles winched the stricken tanker on to its side and then back on to its wheels before towing it away.
Mrs Pauline Basset, who owns the farm where the accident occurred, and whose driveway was blocked by the accident, said at least five serious accidents, involving motorbikes and cars as well as trucks, had occurred on the same bend in the 26 years she had lived there.
"They did cut a lot of it off, but it is (still) a rotten corner," she said.
"It's the most notorious bend on this road," Ms Willsher said.
Mrs Basset was philosophical about the environmental fallout from the accident.
"The milk will kill the fish and turtles in my two dams, but better them than him," she said.
Local dairy farmers said Col Pryor was well-known as a steady and careful driver. They said Mr Pryor was on his way to his last dairy farm pick-up for the day, before taking his load of milk to a Norco dairy factory.
The tanker was owned by Fernmount-based family haulage company D&S Pryor.
NSW Fire Brigades Inspector Phil Treacy said milk was a natural hazard to the environment which killed all the algae which naturally occurred in water.
Other emergency workers at the site said milk was considered a worse environmental hazard than diesel.
The accident will not affect the water supply for Coffs Harbour, which is drawn into Karangi Dam from the Orara River upstream of the accident site.