A PADDOCK beside the Riverina Highway was set ablaze on Saturday night after the car of a speeding, drink-driving P-plater exploded.
Firefighters have been praised for quickly putting out the blaze, which started in tinder-dry grass.
Witnesses said the car — a white Holden Calais — was travelling at “well in excess” of the speed limit when it crashed about 9.15pm.
One of those witnesses, Albury man Andrew Stuart, was in the passenger seat of his car as his L-plater daughter Isabella, 16, got in some night-driving practice.
“I remember passing him going the other way as he was clearly going pretty quickly,” Mr Stuart said.
Father and daughter drove to Lake Hume, then saw the car in the paddock on the way back.
“The scrub around it was on fire but the car wasn’t yet burning,” he said.
The driver was crawling away and was quickly helped by a couple of passers-by.
Mr Stuart said while it was an unpleasant sight, it was a sobering reminder for Isabella of how easily a drive could end in tragedy.
Insp John Wadsworth, of Albury police, said the driver was on a left-hand bend about 200 metres east of the 100km/h signpost “when he went onto the wrong side of the road”.
The man, a 21-year-old from Albury, then crossed back to the correct side of the road but pulled his steering wheel too far, causing his car to leave the roadway and smash through trees and a wire fence. The car stopped about 140 metres inside a paddock.
The impact caused the car’s fuel line to rupture, starting the fire.
Rural Fire Service crews put out the flames and mopped up within half an hour.
The man, a NSW provisional P1 driver’s licence holder, provided a positive breath test result of 0.167. The highway was closed in each direction for about an hour.
“The firefighters did an exceptional job in controlling the fire as quickly as they did,” Insp Wadsworth said.
The man must front Albury Local Court on February 19.