Monday, the 29th of September, started off as just another Monday. Just a few weeks ago, a colleague and I started to work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursday in Diemen and on Tuesdays and Fridays in Amersfoort. But, because there were some issues to be addressed and a meeting or two, we went to Amersfoort. So I took the motorway A1 (E231) to work. There was nothing out of the ordinary that morning and had the usual traffic jam.
When I finished my workday, my colleague went home just a few minutes before I did. I saw him driving away from the parking lot at the office. We both drove of roughly in the same direction or at least we both take the E231 to get home. It was around 5.10 PM that afternoon when I headed my way home. Almost every time I go home around that time, I drive straight into a traffic jam about a mile or two. So, nothing special yet. In the picture (click the picture for a larger version), you can see the direction I drove to head for home (getting on to the motorway at point A and going towards point B, that’s 7.5 km or 4.7 miles).
Just about a halfway between point A and B, the traffic jam disappeared and everyone started to increase their speed. Coming near to point B, we all had a driving speed of probably between 80 and 100 km/h (50 and 60 mph) when suddenly in front of me a big lorry, which was driving on the right lane of the two lanes, first went somewhat to the right and immediately hard to the left. He hit the crash barrier with tremendous speed and immediately burst into flames! Because of its enormous crash the lorry turn on its left side and slid a few dozen yards before coming to a stop. There were only a handful of cars in front of me that could escape the debris, but in wonder no one else was hit be the truck. Everyone behind me stopped and dialed the alarm number. People that just got past the crashing truck stopped and jumped out of their cars. People heading the opposite direction on the motorway, which was behind another crash barrier, also stopped, and together headed for the crashed lorry. I saw someone on top (actually the right side) of the cabin just a few feet away from the massive flames trying to get the driver out of the burning cabin. A few unsecure minutes later, they got the driver out through the front window. All the people behind the crashed lorry couldn’t get to the cabin because of all the diesel that was spilled on the motorway was also burning. We could only wait and hope for the best.
Luckily the driver was pulled out before all the explosions and was responsive before he was taken to the hospital. What a heroes are the people that pulled the driver out of the burning truck.
It took some time before any fire trucks or the police arrived and we all waited but couldn’t do anything. I heard some say, almost shout, that there is more fuel leaking out of the fuel tank and only a minute later, as in a movie, there was an explosion. I’m not sure if it was the fuel tank that exploded or a tire. But not long after the first explosion, several other tires exploded with a loud bang. I could feel the pressure wave coming of of it. Still no fire trucks at the scene, so the burning fuel slowly flowed to the side of the road. Luckily there was nothing there to light on fire.
A good fifteen minutes, maybe more, fire trucks and police cars arrived. They immediately tried to extinguish the burning lorry, but it took them at least an hour before the flames were put out. The lorry didn’t look quite as good as before.
Because I was one of the witnesses of the crash, I answered some questions to the police about what I saw so they could put all the pieces together to find out what had caused the accident.
In the mean time a huge traffic jam had piled up behind the crash, extending to at least 15 km (9 miles) and no one could pass the crash. The police shut the motorway some 9km (5.5 miles) back and let all the traffic turn around. Before the police decided to let everyone turn around and head for the first or previous exit, it was at least 7 PM.
When all the flames were doused, the fire trucks and not much later most of the police went away from the crash. The traffic accident analysis guys came along and started to take pictures to put all the pieces together and some traffic assistants were on the scene.
More and more cars turned around to head for the previous exit, but this took a very long time. Eventually around 8 PM, most of the cars had turned around. When someone, about three cars behind me, also wanted to turn around even when there were at least a 100 cars left a traffic policemen said that in a few moment the hard shoulder would be cleaned so we could get past the wreckage. This took another 30 minutes, but eventually we all went on with our ride.
All in all it took me four hours to get home instead of a normal one hour drive.
The road was closed till 3 AM for further cleaning and repairing the surface of the road. The road was quite damaged by the fire.
I can’t believe what a heroes the people are that dragged the driver out of the burning lorry!!
Here are some pictures of the crash (photos are from nu.nl):