INFERNO: Fire officers try to contain a blazing gas tanker which exploded yesterday following an early-morning accident on the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway, Arouca. —Photo: CURTIS CHASE

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FIRE!

Tanker burns

By Akile Simon

THERE was traffic chaos along the East-West Corridor yesterday, after a diesel fuel tanker exploded during an accident along the Churchill Roosevelt Highway near the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca.

The driver of the truck, 41-year-old Andre Rodriguez, of Freeport Mission Road, Preysal, remained warded at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope, suffering from burns about the body. The incident occurred around 8.55 a.m. and prisons officers from the MSP quickly arrived at the scene to give assistance.

Anil Matadin, the driver of a tractor involved in a collision with the gas tanker, considered himself and Rodriguez lucky to be alive following the accident.

Matadin, 31, said he sustained a laceration to the head and shoulder after his head struck a pole in the tractor during the collision. He said at the time of the incident, he was proceeding east when his vehicle was struck. He said the events which followed happened quickly.

Said Matadin, "I not too sure what had hit me at the time, but with the speed he was going, he hooked me from the back and then dragged me and then flipped and then let me go and skate in front of me, and then burst into flames before crashing at the side of the road and it was facing the other way (west).

"He (Rodriguez) was on fire ... He was a man on fire. After they (CEPEP workers) pulled him from the vehicle, he ran across the (west bound lane of the) highway and fall down before somebody took him to hospital."

As a result of the chaos which ensued, traffic had to be diverted onto the Eastern Main Road and the Priority Bus Route between Piarco Junction and Orange Grove intersection in Tacarigua and Maloney Junction.

Fire officers quickly arrived at the scene and, with the use of foam, extinguished the blaze.

Acting District Fire Officer Earl Brown said they were able to extinguish the blaze quickly using foam.

After the officers left, however, the fire reignited around 11 a.m., causing panic among motorists who were using the thoroughfare after it was deemed safe and reopened. Thick plumes of smoke polluted the air again, obscuring the view of many motorists.

Vehicles were eventually stopped by police and the highway was closed off for a second time. The first appliance arrived 45 minutes later and the fire was eventually extinguished.

Glen Roberts, Divisional Manager of Production and Distribution at the National Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago (NP), arrived at the scene and told the media the tanker belonged to a contractor (VKD Contractors). The tanker was transporting fuel to a gas station in the Arima district when the incident occurred.

"We are thankful that so far there has not been any loss of life. We understand that the driver of the truck did receive some burns," Roberts said., adding NP stands ready to provide whatever assistance necessary to assist the driver in his recovery.

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