IT is feared the driver of a tanker truck that overturned and exploded on the Pacific Highway about 10km north of Ballina has died.
Police say they have been unable to locate the driver as the heat from the blaze has been so intense. The intensity of the blaze was such that the road melted next to the truck. Police have been unable to identify the company the truck was owned by as number plates have been charred.
It’s expected the blaze from the tanker, which is estimated to carry about 40,000l, is expected to be allowed to burn until the fuel inside is spent. The highway is expected to be closed until the end of the day and it’s likely the truck will not be removed until tomorrow.
The accident occurred about 11.50am as the truck, heading south towards Ballina, lost control and crashed into a guard rail near Sandy Flat Road.
The truck brought down powerlines onto another vehicle with two people inside it before it exploded, and a black pall of smoke is still visible for a number of kilometres. The people in the car were not injured and were released by police.
Power to the nearby village of Tintenbar has been cut. Powerlines are still across the highway.
Light vehicles have been diverted along the Old Bangalow Road and through Lennox Head and Alstonville, with heavy vehicles diverted on to the Summerland Way or New England Highway. There is heavy holiday traffic along the Pacific Highway and diversions.
The area around Tintenbar hill where the accident occurred has seen a number of serious accidents. That part of the highway will be closed when the Ballina bypass is completed in 2012.
More information and pictures will be posted as soon as they are avialable.