2.30pm: Hunter Valley acting commander Inspector Robert Post said police had monitored the stolen truck as it headed towards Singleton.
“It wasn’t so much a pursuit as we were monitoring and trying to close down roads as they went along,” he said.
Road spikes were used in a bid to stop the truck, he said.
“The spikes were deployed and a short pursuit initiated to do that just prior to Singleton Heights,” he said.
“The truck has entered the township of Singleton and collided with several vehicles.”
2pm: A TRUCK which careered down Singleton’s main street pushed a car sideways for up to 50 metres, badly injuring the driver and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.
Witnesses have described to the Newcastle Herald the “pure carnage” as the ordeal unfolded shortly after 9am on the New England Highway.
Truck driver Clifton Brett braked harshly as the alleged stolen truck pulled out in front of him.
“It was pure carnage,” he said.
“He would have been doing a good 70 or 80 km/h. After he pulled out in front of me, he didn’t slow down after that.
“He ran into all these cars, hit the pole and the truck burst into flames.”
Mr Brett jumped out of his truck and began to assist the injured drivers.
As bystanders rendered assistance, police swooped on the driver of the allegedly stolen truck, which was carrying mushroom compost.
“Police just came out of everywhere and jumped on top of the guy,” Mr Brett said.
“The whole area was like a bomb had gone off. It’s the worst accident I’ve ever seen.”
Other witnesses recalled hearing “huge bangs” as they filed out of surrounding businesses.
The licensee of the Royal Hotel, Andrew Herd, said it was like “stepping into a war-stricken” country.
“It was chaos; rubble and cars and people and emergency services everywhere. You immediately think, ‘What can I do to help?’
“You see stuff like this on video games.
“I was alive for the ’89 earthquake and it sounded exactly like that. It was enough to send a chill down your spine.”
Mr Herd said people were “sitting in the gutters just crying” as what had happened began to set in.
“You couldn’t get sense out of people,” he said.
The 29-year-old driver tried to escape but he was pounced on by at least six police officers.
The driver remains under guard and is expected to be charged later on Wednesday afternoon.
Police declined to comment on whether the man was armed, citing the critical incident investigation which will comb over the actions of officers.
- Brodie Owen
1.20pm: NSW Ambulance said a total of eight patients were assessed at the scene of the fiery Singleton truck crash this morning and five were transported to hospital.
They were: a 67-year-old man with head, chest and leg injuries who was airlifted to John Hunter Hospital in a critical condition; a 64-year-old man with chest, neck and back pain who was taken by road ambulance to John Hunter in a stable condition; a 62-year-old female with pelvic and hip injuries who was airlifted to John Hunter in a stable condition; and a further two patients were taken by road to Singleton District Hospital with minor injuries. No gender or ages were given.
Update, 12.30pm: Seven ambulances rushed to the scene this morning after a 000 call was made by a member of the public.
Eight patients have been assessed at the scene and four people have been transported.
The first ambulance arrived at around 8.55am this morning to find “a chaotic scene involving a number of quite distressed people,” NSW Ambulance Inspector Luke Wiseman said.
“We treated four patients at the scene, including one 64 year old male in a critical condition with head and chest injuries and a 62 year old female with pelvic and hip injuries.
“The critical male patient was airlifted to John Hunter Hospital and the female patient with hip injuries was transported by road to John Hunter Hospital.
A 64-year-old male patient with neck, chest and back pain was also taken by road to John Hunter Hospital by road.
Two other patients are in reported to be in a stable condition.
“It seems that the people involved were just going about their usual morning business, having coffee along the main street when this accident happened out of nowhere,” Insp. Wiseman said.
“It’s always going to be tough dealing with a scene like this. The scale and the suddenness of the incident and the fact that it has happened in a smaller community means a lot of people are in shock, so it was a challenging scene.”
The chaos started when an allegedly stolen truck collided with five vehicles and a building in the Singleton CBD on Wednesday morning, before bursting into flames.
Police were the first to respond to the crash, after being called to reports of a stolen semi-trailer from a service station at Murrurundi in the Hunter Valley at around 7.30am.
Police deployed tyre spikes to stop the truck as it approached Singleton, but have denied reports a pursuit was initiated.
Officers allege they sighted the vehicle driving erratically south on the New England Highway, through Muswellbrook and towards Singleton.
The truck continued onto George Street, where it caught fire after crashing into several vehicles and buildings.
The driver of the alleged stolen truck was arrested at the scene and is currently assisting police with inquiries.
A critical incident team from Port Stephens Local Area Command will now investigate all circumstances surrounding the incident including the deployment of road spikes. The investigation will be subject to independent review.
11.50am: Northbound light vehicles are being diverted on the Golden Highway on Wittingham and Lemington roads, to rejoin the New England Highway at Ravensworth.
Southbound light vehicles should divert via Lemington road and the Golden Highway. Drivers have been advised to expect delays.
Reports have been received that a semi-trailer was stolen this morning from the BP at Murrurundi while the owner-driver was paying for fuel.
The truck was on its way to Tamworth loaded with mushroom compost, collected earlier from Singleton.
The truck south down the New England Highway before being caught and arrested by police in George Street, Singleton.
The Westpac Rescue Helicopter has been tasked on a primary mission to a multi-vehicle accident on the New England Highway in Singleton township.
Emergency services are now on the scene at a multi-vehicle accident that has occurred near Burdekin park this morning.
The accident has resulted in flames, with major traffic delays expected.