3 dead as fuel trailer crushes cars

The scene of the tragedy on the Wodonga-Yackandandah Road. Picture: SIMON DALLINGER
The scene of the tragedy on the Wodonga-Yackandandah Road. Picture: SIMON DALLINGER

A YOUNG boy and two women, all from the North East, were killed after a petrol tanker’s trailer separated from the prime mover and collided head-on with two vehicles near Baranduda yesterday morning.

The BP petrol tanker was travelling south on the Wodonga-Yackandandah Road when its trailer decoupled from the tanker on a bend at Staghorn Flat, crossing to the opposite side of the road and crashing into the oncoming cars just before 9am.

A mother, 33, and her four-year-old son, from Allans Flat, died when their Holden Captiva wagon was crushed by the trailer.

A Yackandandah woman, 67, the sole occupant of a Mazda coupe, was also killed when her vehicle was hit by the trailer.

Emergency services personnel and police rushed to the crash site, but the two women and the boy died at the scene.

Investigators from the Victoria Police Major Collision Unit in Melbourne arrived at Staghorn Flat about 3pm yesterday.

The road remained closed last night as detectives waited for SES and CFA personnel to empty the fuel from the tanker before they started their investigations due to safety concerns.

Police re-opened the road at 4.30am today but the speed limit is 80 km/h.

The process of siphoning the fuel was expected to take four hours from 6pm last night.

The driver of the truck, a local man, aged 50, is assisting police with their inquiries.

Major Collision Unit Detective Inspector Bernie Rankin said the investigation was ongoing.

“We have quite a bit of work to do,” he said.

“The truck has to be lifted off one of the vehicles and the highway will be closed for quite a few hours at this stage.”

Inspector Rankin described the crash as a “catastrophic situation”.

“People innocently driving along a highway have been confronted with a situation that was impossible for them to have any control over or take any evasive action,” he said.

Witnesses said the truck was travelling normally before the trailer came off.

Inspector Rankin said yesterday’s weather conditions were fine.

“A significant part of the investigation is why the tanker became uncoupled from the towing vehicle,” he said.

“We will have to have the vehicle mechanically inspected and that could take some time.

“We have a rather delicate scene at the moment where there’s a lot of fuel on the road, so it will be a rather long process.”

Energy giant BP responded to the tragedy by recalling its Victorian trucking fleet as a precaution and will co-operate with any investigation.

The 20 BP-owned and operated trucks and their trailers — 57 vehicles in all — will be inspected by VicRoads officers today.

The company said it was saddened that lives had been lost.

“We can confirm that the incident did not result in the release of any fuel from the product tanker,” it said.

Police have asked anyone who witnessed the crash to contact them.