Oh, what a feeling!
By NERIDA BLOK
JUMPING for joy was the last thing truck driver Khen Do wanted to do as he watched flames licking about $200,000 worth of new Toyota cars he was carrying.
With a sinking feeling he watched as his car carrier mysteriously burst into flames in Lismore on Saturday.
The fire destroyed the prime mover and engulfed the car directly above.
Six other cars narrowly escaped incineration as the Lismore Fire Brigade quickly arrived and doused the blaze, sending plumes of smoke billowing into the air.
The fire erupted seconds after Mr Do, 40, from Melbourne, had parked the car-carrier on the Bruxner Highway near the new traffic lights, at 11.50am.
Mr Do was travelling west when he pulled over at the Brewster Street intersection.
He got out of his cabin to walk across to Lismore Nissan to ask for directions for the local Toyota dealership where he was to deliver his cargo.
"I looked back and saw smoke," he said.
Dozens of onlookers playing on nearby tennis courts saw a spectacular display of flames and smoke.
Lismore fire station commander Mark Flannery said the quick action of the Lismore crew stopped the flames impinging on the fuel tanks of the truck, 'which could have created a much larger fire'.
"We managed to save six out of the seven cars on the rear of the truck," he said.
Commander Flannery said the driver's escape was a lucky one.
"The prime mover's cabin is completely destroyed," he said.
He said the cause of the fire was still unknown.
Senior Constable John Rose from Lismore Police helped divert traffic off the highway.
He too said he was amazed the driver survived.
"He was very lucky actually. He could have been half way to Casino or on an open road where there's no access to emergency facilities," Constable Rose said.
"He could have lost everything."
Dane Smee from Goonellabah was driving behind the carrier before the incident happened.
"I called the fire brigade and went over and stopped a few cars," he said.
Dane said he saw clouds of grey smoke going from the cabin to the car above.
"Then it caught on fire," he said. "There were just flames everywhere."
Craig Hill of Bangalow was across the road at the Lismore Tennis Club when the carrier caught alight.
"It was pretty big," he said.
"We could see some flames underneath the cabin which we thought was close to the fuel tank so everyone moved back."
He said he was a little apprehensive because all the kids wanted to get closer to watch but 'we moved them all back'.
"Flames and petrol I don't think are a good combination," he said.