News

Driver risks life to move burning fuel tanker away from homes

Inferno hero

BY KIMMO MATTHEWS Observer staff reporter matthewsk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, January 10, 2014    

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A gasoline tanker driver risked his life to prevent a possible catastrophe yesterday afternoon by driving his trailer, filled with burning fuel, for about 200 metres away from a cluster of houses before jumping from the vehicle moments before it exploded into a ball of fire.

The searing heat from the inferno forced several residents from their homes, damaged sections of two houses, several electrical transformers, and more than 200 metres of the newly paved Mona Road in St Andrew.

"I was driving along the roadway and I heard an explosion," Dennis Butler, the 51-year-old driver of the tanker told the Jamaica Observer.

The frightened driver said he stopped to inspect the vehicle and saw smoke and fire gushing from the rear of the tanker, which was filled with fuel.

The driver said he tried to extinguish the flame but realised his efforts were not making a difference.

"That was when I realised that the tanker was about to explode," said Butler, the father of eight children.

His first instinct, he said, was to flee. However, he quickly decided to drive the tanker to a section of the road where he believed the impending explosion would cause less damage.

Police said they received reports that the driver drove the tanker about 200 metres before he made a desperate run to save his life.

"The impact was so powerful, it could be heard several metres away," said a University of the West Indies student who gave her name only as Tanisha.

"I was as far as the University of the West Indies when I heard the loud bomb-like sound," she added.

Observer employee Elizabeth Ramesar who lives in the area shared a similar story.

"I was at home sleeping and I heard the explosion and jumped up out of bed," said Ramesar who, along with her sister, went to investigate and saw thick smoke coming from the area.

Anna Lisia Doctor, another resident, said she was at home and felt a huge vibration as the tanker exploded.

"The impact was so powerful that the awnings on sections of a house in the area were damaged," said Doctor.

The frightened woman said the water tank on the top of another house had even started to melt from the heat from the blaze.

Yesterday, the police commended Butler for his act of bravery.

"We want to commend him for making the decision to drive a blazing truck away from the populated area," said Deputy Superintendent Steve Brown.

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