Charleville explosion probe ‘must come first’

By: Ruza Zivkusic-Aftasi

QTA concerned that calls for changes before an investigation are premature

Charleville explosion probe ‘must come first’
Cargo-owner Orica is assisting the investigation

The Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) has called for a thorough investigation of a recent truck explosion in Queensland’s south-west before a change of regulations is considered.

QTA CEO Peter Garske says over one million tonnes of ammonium nitrate is transported out of Queensland each year, with such an incident being the first in over 40 years.

He has responded to the Transport Workers Union’s (TWU) calls for restrictions on which trucks could carry which chemicals, saying regulations under the mining and dangerous goods act already exist.

"What actually happened was a crash and the investigators need to be given time to understand the cause of the crash," Garske says.

"That’s the key to identifying whether or not all the right precautions have been undertaken.

"My estimate would be that the explosion occurred up to an hour after the crash because Charleville is a long way from anywhere and the voluntary fire brigade had to get 30 to 40 kilometres down the road so it was some time after the crash that the explosion occurred.

"Clearly the TWU are not particularly familiar with the regulation that already exists and one solution that I see they profit presumably for the sake of some publicity was somewhat ludicrous and that is that all such products should be carried in vehicles powered by natural gas.

"Studies have shown that heavy vehicles that run on natural gas don’t generate enough power to carry heavy loads. Secondly, and most importantly, is the inability to have adequate supplies of gas products available in regional and remote areas."

The Kalari truck was carrying more than 50 tonnes of ammonium nitrate for mining company Orica when it crashed and rolled on Friday in Charleville.

It was transporting the chemical to South Australia.

The blast destroyed two firefighting vehicles and two bridges, and blew a hole in the Mitchell Highway.

The truck driver, two fire officers and two passers-by sustained serious injuries.

Experts from Orica are assisting Queensland authorities with the accident, Orica spokesman Ben Wilson says.

"The thoughts of all Orica employees in Australia are with the driver of the contractor’s vehicle and emergency service workers who responded to the accident and who are now being treated for injuries," Wilson says.

"It is not appropriate to speculate on the cause of the accident and subsequent events as these are not the subject of the investigations now underway.

"The safe transportation of ammonium nitrate is regulated under the Australian Dangerous Goods Code and in Queensland under the Explosives Act which is overseen by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines and Inspector of Explosives.

"Orica supports a strong regulatory regime for the transportation of dangerous goods and the company is committed to working with authorities to ensure the safety and environmental requirements for the transportation of these products are continuously upheld."

Kalari spokeswoman Diana Krause says the driver has been flown to a Brisbane hospital.

"We are deeply saddened that people have been injured and our first priority is their welfare," Krause says.

"We are working closely with the authorities as part of the ongoing investigation."

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