Trail of destruction a daunting scene

WRECKED: The scene in the main street of Singleton on Wednesday afternoon, hours after an allegedly stolen truck caused chaos in the town. Picture: Brodie Owen
WRECKED: The scene in the main street of Singleton on Wednesday afternoon, hours after an allegedly stolen truck caused chaos in the town. Picture: Brodie Owen

POLICE will examine their response in the wake of a truck causing a trail of destruction, bursting into a fireball and leaving one man with critical injuries, on Singleton’s main street.

INFERNO: The truck bursts into flames after leaving a trail of destruction.

INFERNO: The truck bursts into flames after leaving a trail of destruction.

The investigation comes as police were expected to charge the 29-year-old driver, Rodney Johnson, with multiple offences overnight.

The Newcastle Herald understands those offences will include two counts of police pursuit (Skye’s Law), steal vehicle, use vehicle to avoid arrest, assault police and malicious damage. Skye’s Law alone carries a maximum penalty of three years’ jail and five years for a repeat offence.

Police launched a critical incident investigation to examine the response of authorities in the lead-up to truck crash, which is protocol when a member of the public is injured or dies during the course of a police operation.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Hunter Valley acting commander Inspector Robert Post batted away questions about the effectiveness of road spikes during a short pursuit at Singleton Heights, which shredded some of the truck’s tyres.

Inspector Post said the driver was allegedly able to travel at least two kilometres after spikes were deployed.

The driver’s behaviour was described by police as “reckless” and “erratic” as he made his way down the highway, with the truck allegedly stolen from the BP service station at Murrurundi.

The truck – which was refuelling at the time it was allegedly stolen about 7.30am – was loaded with mushroom compost and originally bound for Tamworth.

At least one other car collided with the truck near Murrurundi.

Inspector Post said the destruction that unfolded on George Street was overwhelming for authorities.

“It was quite a daunting scene for our first responders,” he said. “It took quite a while to get under control.”

Ambulance NSW Inspector Luke Wiseman said Singleton residents were in shock after the incident. 

Two rescue helicopters were dispatched to Singleton, with four people taken to hospital.

One man, 67, was in a critical but stable condition in John Hunter Hospital on Wednesday night.

“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,” Inspector 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.”

Investigators remained on the scene overnight as debris started to be cleared.

Authorities hoped to have the road open, with most businesses to resuming normal trade on Thursday. Damaged buildings were still being assessed for their safety as there was concern a handful could be unstable.

Police appealed for witnesses to phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.