Residents of Upper Island Cove were breathing easier Tuesday evening after learning there were no injuries or environmental damage after a fuel oil delivery truck overturned in the community.
The tandem axle truck was travelling along Noel's Road around the supper hour when it accidentally crashed through a guardrail, went over a six-foot high retaining wall and fell onto its side on a flat surface, free of any objects that may have punctured the tank.
The tanker is owned by Robert Hayward and Sons Ltd., of Spaniard's Bay, and was carrying 6,000 liters of furnace oil at the time. The mishap occurred in an area of the town known for its hilly, winding and narrow streets, making it challenging in places for some larger vehicles to operate.
Fortunately, the driver walked away from the scene, and only a minute amount of fuel spilled onto the ground, likely from the onboard tank that fuels the engine. The lids and vents on top of the tank also worked as they should, preventing fuel from spilling.
"It could have been a very serious situation," said Upper Island Cove resident Edwin Lundrigan, who was watching television with his wife Jean when they heard a loud thump outside their home.
When Edwin glanced out a window, he could see the front grille of a large overturned commercial truck near the old sawmill building on his property. He scrambled outside and arrived just as several passersby were helping the shaken driver emerge from the truck, which was resting on its side in a driveway adjacent to the building, which sustained only minor damage to its siding.
Edwin was grateful that the oil didn't spill from the truck, since it likely would have flowed downhill, beneath his and other homes in the neighbourhood. If such a scenario were to occur, he likely would have been forced to vacate his home, he said.
"It was a close call. If he had driven a little further, he could have smashed into our house. And who knows what damage might have been caused if he continued down the hill."
Police say the driver lost control on the small hill, and took out a 60-foot section of guardrail. The town's volunteer fire brigade responded to the scene to help deal with what could have been a potentially volatile situation, and a private company from Mount Pearl arrived about two hours later to begin pumping the fuel from the overturned truck, which was uprighted and removed on Wednesday morning.
The truck was being driven by company co-owner Jim Hayward, who was back at the scene Wednesday morning, helping oversee the truck's removal, said his brother and business partner, Bob Hayward.
"He came away unscathed, with only a sore back and neck," said Bob, who described the incident as an "unfortunate accident."
When asked what may have happened, Bob said he will do whatever it takes to find out.
"Was it a mechanical failure, driver error or road conditions, or a combination of all those? We have not determined that yet," he said. "It all happened so quick, and in a truck that size, on those narrow roads, he only had a millisecond to react."
The truck was to undergo a comprehensive inspection by mechanical experts, he added.
Jim Hayward has been driving similar trucks for about 30 years, and the company's safety record over the years is an impressive one, said Bob.
"We don't take any chances with these vehicles because we're hauling fuel into a residential area," he said.
As for the company's residential customers, Bob Hayward said there were only minor delays as the company prepared its second tanker truck for service. It had been in a garage, undergoing repairs.