By Ian Paterson, Penrith Press, 09 July 2015

MOTORISTS are being told to brace for peak hour chaos as the Great Western Highway at Werrington remains closed after a 40,000-litre LPG tanker rolled after colliding with a car this morning. A recent accident westbound on the M4 near the Northern Road turn off at Orchard Hills has caused traffic to back up to Mamre Rd causing further delays.

The Cootes Transport tanker rolled after the collision near the University of Western Sydney campus about 10am forcing the closure of the highway in both directions.

The accident also closed the University of Western Sydney’s Werrington North and South campuses after a gas leak was detected coming from the truck.

A 26-year-old woman on her P-plates was trapped for 30 minutes and suffered serious leg and facial injuries after the tanker almost crushed her Toyota Corolla.

The driver of the truck is in a stable condition in hospital and is expected to be released later today.

Fire and Rescue NSW established an 900m exclusion zone at the scene and police shut the road in both directions between French St, Kingswood and Werrington Ave, Werrington.

Fire and Rescue contained the leak in the tanker and Cootes Transport dispatched a specialist response team to assist with the safe removal and disposal of gas product from the tanker.

A crane is at the scene but it is not known when the tanker will be moved.

The Great Western Highway is expected to remain closed for several more hours while police investigate the cause of the accident.

A NSW Police Media spokesman said that due to the seriousness of the crash the road was expected to be closed through the afternoon peak hour traffic and would not reopen until later tonight.

All motorists are advised to avoid the area unless necessary with the Transport Management Centre directing motorists, particularly heavy vehicles to use Mamre Rd, the M4 motorway and The Northern Road.

Eastbound light vehicles approaching the scene will be diverted O’Connell St, Kingswood while westbound light vehicles will be diverted into Gipps St.

Route 774, 775 and 776 buses are be diverted away from the Great Western Highway via Sunflower Drive with four bus stops being missed and delays of up to 15 minutes on those routes currently being experienced.

Cootes Transport was hit with more than $500,000 in fines and legal costs for safety and registration breaches last year following a fatal accident involving one of the companies tankers in Mona Vale in October 2013.

In the weeks following the 2013 crash which killed two men after the LPG tanker crashed into cars and burst into a huge fireball, Cootes, the biggest fuel haulage company in Australia, was issued with hundreds of defect notices as part of an inspection crackdown.

The breaches included an LPG tanker with a leaking gas valve. Dozens of vehicles with problems including poor brakes, were grounded at the time.

Traffic diversions will remain in place around the exclusion zone for several hours. Motorists are strongly advised to avoid the area or delay their trip.

A Cootes Transport spokesman said the company’s primary concern was for the welfare of the driver and woman injured in the accident.

“While we have received confirmation that our driver is in a stable condition and is expected to be released from hospital later today, our thoughts remain with the driver of the passenger vehicle and her family and friends,” the spokesman said.

“The Company is currently assisting Emergency Services personnel to remove the prime mover and tanker from the road and has dispatched a specialist response team to assist with the safe removal and disposal of gas product from the tanker.

“While the precise cause of this accident may not be known for some time, the Company is cooperating fully with all external investigations”.

Extracted in full from the Daily Telegraph.

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