Truck bursts into flames after slamming into highway centre barrier

A truck driver suffered head injuries when his truck hit a recently installed flexible highway barrier and burst into flames at Fernbank in Victoria's east.

Key points:

  • A B-double has slammed into a central barrier, rupturing its fuel tank and bursting into flames
  • Detours have been set up around the crash scene on the busy Princes Highway
  • Centre barriers can be 'very dangerous' on narrow stretches, says a bus driver

The truck's fuel tank ruptured when it hit the median barrier on the Princes Highway between Stratford and Bairnsdale at 6.40am on Thursday. The major highway was closed in both directions near the Billabong roadhouse, at Fernbank. Sergeant Matt Tanner said the highway would remain closed for much of the day to allow heavy haulage crews from Melbourne to remove the wreckage.

"The B-double heading towards Bairnsdale struck the centre median barrier, one of the newly constructed ones ... he's then gone along another couple of hundred metres and ruptured the fuel tank," Sergeant Tanner said the driver declined an ambulance. The truck was destroyed in the fire.

Truck bursts into flames after slamming into highway centre barrier

"It didn't roll over but it got stuck to the centre barrier and it's right up hard against the centre barrier a few hundred metres east of the Billabong roadhouse," Sergeant Tanner said.

Detours were set up along Bengworden Road and Fernbank Road. A hay truck crashed into a barrier near the same spot on highway last month.

'Not enough room for barriers'

In 2019, the Victorian Government removed five sections of barriers along the Princes Highway in East Gippsland after they failed safety audits. In August 2019, Debbie Thomas's bus broke down and became jammed up against a roadside barrier near the Billabong roadhouse on the Princes Highway in east Gippsland.

"We pulled as close as we possibly could to the outside barrier and then we had haulage trucks with (pre-fabricated) houses on them come through. Lucky they had lift units on them and they were able to get past," But Ms Thomas said the load extended a metre into the other lane, impeding oncoming traffic.

'It was very dangerous'

"To be able to get out of our bus we had to jump over the outside barrier to be able to get out and we couldn't access our emergency equipment because we couldn't open our storage units," Ms Thomas said.

"It was a very, very dangerous situation. "I am not against barriers. There is just not enough room on either side of the barriers between Stratford and Bairnsdale."

A spokeswoman for the Victorian Department of Transport said flexible safety barriers were proven to reduce the risk of fatalities and seriously injuries in single and multiple-vehicle crashes. "The barriers work by absorbing much of the force in a collision, reducing the impact to the human body and allowing the vehicle to come to a gradual standstill," she said. "This stops the vehicle from colliding with roadside hazards such as trees or traffic coming from the opposite direction."

The highway was still closed in both directions seven hours after the crash.

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