Part of a heavy vehicle carrying hazardous chemicals burst into flames and became airborne for a great distance.
An investigation found a 25 kg piece of shrapnel from a road train recently flew 800 metres from the detonation point on Great Central Road, near Gold Road Resources’ Gruyere mine – about 1000km east of Geraldton.
The Western Australian Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety confirmed the explosion occurred after a wheel fire ignited 34 tonnes of mine blasting oxidising agents called ammonium nitrate emulsion.
A preliminary report reveals the rear tanker trailer’s tyres caught alight on the passenger side about noon on 24 October 2022. The operator pulled over after seeing black smoke. He sprayed the flames with two dry powder extinguishers and a water extinguisher but the blaze continued, prompting him to decouple the trailer and evacuate the area.
Emergency responders eventually arrived and barricaded the road in both directions. The tanker exploded about two hours later, removing a large volume of sealed road and soil measuring about 17 metres wide by 15 metres long by 1 metres deep.
Investigators discovered the blast had snapped multiple 4 metre-tall trees at ground level up to 40 metres from the detonation point. Branches measuring 75mm thick were also found broken up to 150 metres away. No human injuries were reported.
They also found the trailer design was approved, correctly licensed and serviceable without obvious maintenance issues. Oxidising agents were properly loaded and the operator correctly followed his employer’s emergency guidelines.
“[His conduct was] consistent with industry practice,” the report said according to Seven West Media.
The department recommended that employers adequately prepare for tyre and vehicle fires, and follow “good” emergency procedures.
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