A DRIVER and gelding escaped unhurt when a ute towing a horse float caught fire on the Hume Freeway near Wangaratta on Wednesday morning.
The incident at Laceby closed the northbound lanes for an hour from about 7.40am, with traffic then restricted to one lane for a further 90 minutes.
Acting Sergeant Patrick Murray, of Wangaratta highway patrol, said the float’s bearing seized up and lost a wheel, with the axle then sparking against the bitumen.
“Which ignited with the hay and grease, causing the horse float and the ute to become totally engulfed in fire,” he said.
Passers-by helped the 48-year-old male driver to unload the horse safely and Wangaratta region CFA brigades brought the fire under control in about 40 minutes.
“It was a massive fireball, there were some gas cylinders on board and one of those detonated,” Acting Sergeant Murray said.
“The horse was unhurt and happily enjoying eating the grass on the side of the road.”