Queensland

M1 truck crash: Man hailed hero after pulling driver free

A Southport man has been hailed a hero for climbing on a burning truck to rescue the barely conscious driver, after it jackknifed on the M1 at the Gold Coast on Tuesday afternoon.

Athen Barnaby, 33, said the truck crashed right in front of him on the motorway at Nerang about 1.45pm after a flock of birds flew into its windscreen.

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Truck hero relives incredible rescue

Barefoot hero Athen Barnaby tells how he pulled a truck driver from an inferno on the M1, saying "I've got to get you out of here before this thing explodes". Nine News

The truck then rolled and crashed into a bridge, exploding in a fireball that sent plumes of black smoke billowing into the sky.

Mr Barnaby, clad only in thongs and light clothing, told Channel Nine's Today Show he had no hesitation in rushing to the burning truck to help the driver.

Athen Barnaby climbs onto a burning truck to rescue the driver on the M1.
Athen Barnaby climbs onto a burning truck to rescue the driver on the M1. Photo: Nine News

"I saw the accident, it happened right in front of me, so, as soon as that happened I stopped, I jumped out, I tried to figure out what was going on," he said.

"I couldn't see him at first before I crossed over, then I saw him pop out.

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"From there we tried to figure out what we could do. There were several guys with me trying to put the fire out."

Mr Barnaby said despite fears the truck might explode, he and others at the scene were determined to get the driver out.

A truck explodes in flames on the M1 near Nerang
A truck explodes in flames on the M1 near Nerang Photo: Twitter

"When we saw him pop out we were all yelling at him saying, "mate you have to get out of there this thing is going to blow," he said.

"He was yelling back he couldn't see. He couldn't see.

Athen Barnaby says he would perform his dangerous rescue again.
Athen Barnaby says he would perform his dangerous rescue again. Photo: Nine News

"We're scrambling trying to put the fire out to try and give him time.

"He managed to get himself out the window. Then he sat there for a good 30 seconds to a minute because he couldn't get any further he couldn't climb, so I find out he had a broken leg sorry to hear.

Witnesses help the driver down from the vehicle.
Witnesses help the driver down from the vehicle. Photo: Nine News

"I figured I couldn't watch him get burnt so I took it on me. I just jumped straight up.

"I'm highly pleased I was at the right place at the right time and I would have done it 10 times over."

The driver of the truck, aged in his 60s, was taken to Gold Coast University Hospital suffering a suspected broken leg, soft tissue injuries and minor burns.

The crash caused traffic chaos on the southbound lanes of the freeway on Tuesday afternoon, with the bridge remaining closed throughout the night, as Department of Transport and Main Roads engineers assessing its structural integrity.

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