Grandmother recounts Mona Vale Road tragedy
A day after the latest Mona Vale Road accident, Josie Everson relives the tragedy of losing her 13-year-old grandchild Nicole Everson who was killed when a truck ploughed into her house off Mona Vale Road in 1998.PT3M44S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2usri 620 349 October 2, 2013
Three men have been praised for their heroic actions after they pulled two women from a burning vehicle in Tuesday's horror truck crash in Mona Vale on Sydney's northern beaches.
It could quite easily have been four deceased if it wasn't for their actions.
A witness has described how the men were forced back by intense heat and flames before they could reach two men who were also trapped in the car.
The charred wreckage of the petrol tanker on Mona Vale Road. Photo: Kate Geraghty
An out-of-control petrol tanker had hurtled down the wrong side of Mona Vale Road, through a roundabout, hit a power pole and smashed into four vehicles.
The men who died in the flames were believed to be the rescued women's husbands. They were a 71-year-old man from Mona Vale, and a man in his 60s from Western Australia.
The truck driver, aged in his 40s, was believed to be honking his horn to warn other motorists as he hurtled down the busy road just after 3.30pm.
Firefighters worked throughout the night to drain the remaining fuel. Photo: Kate Geraghty
The truck, which firefighters say had the capacity to carry 50,000 litres of fuel, overturned and exploded into a fireball, leaving a trail of fire down the road and flames shooting 15 metres into the air.
Assistant Commissioner John Hartley said initial investigations indicated that a mechanical fault with the truck caused the fatal crash.
‘‘It appears to be mechanical fault, not the fault of the roadway,’’ he said.
Fatal car crash in Mona Vale
The road is closed as the truck fire rages out of control. Photo: Tim Pascoe
One person at the scene of the crash, who asked not to be identified, said two men aged in their early 20s were driving down Mona Vale Road when they were forced to swerve out of the way of the truck.
The men immediately jumped out of their vehicle and raced to help motorists trapped in a burning vehicle that had been struck by the truck and had erupted into flames, the witness said.
They were joined by a nearby resident, who had jumped over his back fence seconds after the impact.
"They pulled two ladies from the vehicle," the witness said. "It was pretty horrific. It could quite easily have been four deceased if it wasn't for their actions.
"The vehicle was alight, that's why they couldn't get the other people out. They were unable to free the other two occupants of the vehicle before it became engulfed in flames.
"They were themselves lucky to avoid being hit by the truck."
When firefighters extinguished the blaze on Tuesday afternoon, the car had been reduced to a charred shell.
"Within 30 seconds, 20 seconds, the vehicle was alight ... the lady was brought out to safety and then at that point my attention went to a man who had been burnt, and he had no hair, so I got him over to near my fence and hosed him off with the water, and ran inside and got some glad wrap and just wrapped up his burns," one bystander told Channel Seven.
Police confirmed that two men had been killed in the crash, but have not yet released their personal details.
Five people were taken to Royal North Shore Hospital, including a 47-year-old man who was believed to be the truck driver. He was in stable condition.
A 69-year-old man was in serious but stable condition in hospital, while two women, aged 67 and 72, were in stable conditions.
A 74-year-old female was released from hospital on Tuesday night.
Firefighters spent the night removing fuel from the tanker, which was pulled upright on Wednesday morning.
Mona Vale Road has been closed between Pittwater Road and Samuel Street while the salvage operation continues, and there is no forecast for when it will re-open.
Once the truck is removed, engineers will have to assess the road surface to determine the extent of the damage.
The crash on Tuesday afternoon occurred within 100 metres of another fatal truck crash on the same road that killed a teenage girl and a male motorist in 1998.
In that incident, an out-of-control tip-truck, laden with 12 tonnes of sand, sped down Mona Vale Road and flattened a car, killing its driver, 48-year-old Silverio Garcia.
The truck then slammed into a house, killing 13-year-old Nicole Everson, who was sitting in the loungeroom of her aunt's home. She had been decorating the home for a farewell party and was taking a break.
The truck driver in that crash, Van Dieu Do, was found guilty the following year of the manslaughter of Nicole and Mr Garcia. His trial heard the truck was travelling at up to 160km/h at the time.
In the wake of Tuesday's crash, some people have demanded an upgrade to what they have described as a dangerous section of Mona Vale Road.
"This is the second major fatality involving a heavy vehicle in that location due to that hill, and the roundabout that was installed as a result of the last account [sic] has done nothing but cause another ... very tragic," wrote one person on Facebook.
Superintendent Ian Krimmer, from Fire and Rescue NSW, said the truck had the capacity to carry up to 50,000 litres of fuel, but it was unclear how much it was carrying when it crashed.
Firefighters decanted some 18,000 litres of fuel from the vehicle's tanks overnight, but Superintendent Krimmer said an "enormous amount" had burned during the crash.
Other fuel had spilled into surrounding waterways, but firefighters were confident they had contained that fuel within a 1.5 kilometre radius of the crash, Superintendent Krimmer said.
He said hazardous materials experts had used sand from a nearby golf course to create artificial dams to contain the spill in the drains.
"We've done sampling down from the dams and we're getting negative readings, so we're fairly confident it has been contained," he said.
The Transport Management Centre advised motorists to use Pittwater Road, Wakehurst Parkway and Forest Way instead of Mona Vale Road.
Motorists should expect delays and allow additional travel time when travelling in the area.