Home' Tennant and District Times : 2014-1121 TDT Contents Vol. 38 No. 44 FRIDAY 21 NOVEMBER 2014 99¢ inc. GST
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THE Ti Tree community banded to-
gether to avert a major disaster on
Tuesday night when a road train
trailer full of explosive ammonium
nitrate caught fire.
Soon after a truckie - heading south from
Tennant Creek with 24 tonnes of ammonium
nitrate on board - had pulled into the rest area
opposite the roadhouse, he noticed the last
of three trailers on fire.
It was just before 9pm.
Knowing his load was highly volatile,
he battled smoke and fumes to unhook the
trailer and move the prime mover and two
other trailers away from the scene.
Meanwhile a quick-thinking staff member
switched off the roadhouse fuel tanks and
alerted local police who were at the scene
Ti Tree Roadhouse Manager Suzie McLeod
said the driver put his life at risk to prevent
a major explosion.
“At first we didn’t know what the load was,
but the driver did and he was very brave to
unhook the burning trailer to separate it from
the rig,” she said.
“Without a doubt, he was a hero.
“If that whole thing had gone up we would
have all been in a lot of trouble.”
As the fire took hold, a huge explosion
echoed through the township and flames
engulfed the trailer.
Police moved quickly to evacuate the
whole town and established a one kilometre
exclusion zone in an operation coordinated
by Ti Tree Police Sergeant Cameron Bellis.
Residents on the eastern side of the high-
way were ushered into the school while
those on the other side of the road were
evacuated further west.
All traffic was diverted in through the
back of Ti Tree while the highway remained
Suzie said the Shire water cart turned up
but we soon realised that it wasn’t a good
idea to douse ammonium nitrate with water
and that it just had to burn out.
Water affects the explosive function of
ammonium nitrate and creates violent
combustion. It would also produce nitrous
oxide gas - although it would not have been
a laughing matter.
“It was a big night,” Suzie said.
“We were allowed back to our homes at
about 1:30am but there was still a 300 metre
“We were up early to open the roadhouse
and to make coffee for the police who were
still on the job.
“They didn’t knock-off until around lunch
Local police, Sergeant Bellis and Constable
Adam Davey were assisted by officers from
Arlparra and Willowra - Brody Anderson,
Daniel Dellar, Fred Pedrotti, Andrew Dunne,
Trent Berry and Stephen Jones.
A Worksafe NT investigator was sent to
Ti Tree on Wednesday to compile a report
on the fire which is not being treated as
Suzie said the police and a fire fighting
unit from Alice Springs, did a fantastic job.
“They were absolutely brilliant,” she said.
“They got things organised very quickly
and made sure everyone in Ti Tree was safe.
“We were all amazed at how efficient they
were and they worked hard for hours on end.
It was a long, long day for them.
“Night Patrol and the Shire workers were
also great, they were the ones who went
door-to-door making sure everyone was
moved to a safe place.
“And I’ve got to say a big thank you to
Matthew Thornycroft who was on his last
shift at the roadhouse when the drama
“His spur-of-the-moment decision to shut
down the fuel tanks was a smart move and
really saved the situation from becoming
“The fire was just a stone’s throw away
from thousands of litres of fuel so you can
imagine how dangerous it could have all
“Matthew’s an English backpacker who
was heading off on further travels, so you
could say he really went out with a bang.”
On Monday a road train carting cattle
rolled on the Stuart Highway at Renner
Springs, 160 kilometres north of Tennant.
And on Tuesday a road train carrying three
trailers of hot bitumen rolled near Katherine.
Photo by OLIVIA RYDER.
DANGEROUS BLAZE: A road train trailer
carrying ammonium nitrate exploded in Ti
Tree on Tuesday evening.
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