By RYAN TAYLOR
A LORRY driver was forced to flee from his burning cab on Monday morning as flames “licked up” through the foot well of his stricken truck towards him.
Onlookers watched as thick black smoke billowed up from the cab of the Shetland Transport truck, which caught fire after a serious mechanical failure caused its engine to ignite.
David Wishart was driving his lorry southwards on the A970 at Tingwall, on his way from Hillswick to Lerwick, when the incident happened.
The 30-year-old from Nesting, who has worked for Shetland Transport for the last nine years, tried to get to the nearest layby at the Windy Grind after hearing a bang from the truck’s engine compartment.
However he was forced to abandon his vehicle after other motorists tried to flag him down.
Mr Wishart only managed to sprint some 60 yards from his lorty before the entire cab lit up in flames.
“I had started going up towards Tingwall and had passed the turn off for the west side at approximately 9.45am, when I heard what can only be described as an explosion,” he said.
“I knew something had happened because I was starting to lose power, and I could see my rev counter fluctuating.
“I thought I would pull in at the Windy Grind to phone for help.”
But before he could get there the drivers of other vehicles, who spotted the fire taking hold of the engine, tried desperately to get Mr Wishart to stop.
“There was a Hay & Co lorry and a taxi who were both waving at me to get my attention,” he said.
“I knew something had happened but I never knew the cab was actually on fire.
“When I looked in my mirrors I could see smoke, so I pulled on my handbrake and got out of the cab.”
Before jumping free of the burning truck he saw “flames licking up through the pedals,” and within seconds the cab was ablaze.
“By the time I had run 60 yards it had gone up in a ball of fire,” Mr Wishart added.
“I was amazed at how fast it was burning. I was surprised at how ferociously the fire had spread in such a short time.”
Mr Wishart was able to phone for help on his mobile, and within minutes fire crews were on the scene.
Meanwhile the other lorry and taxi which had tried to get Mr Wishart’s attention before he stopped formed a makeshift barrier to prevent other motorists from getting caught in the thick clouds of black smoke and flames.
“I want to thank the fire brigade at Tingwall Airport, and Scalloway and Lerwick as well,” he said.
Mr Wishart was uninjured, and carried on working after the incident had happened.
The road between the Gott/Veensgarth crossroads and the Herrislea junction had to be closed for several hours to allow the burnt out truck to be taken away on a low loader.
Mr Wishart also thanked the recovery team who cleared the wreckage, as well as the motorists who had indicated to him to stop.
Shocked residents in the area looked on as the blaze took hold of the vehicle.
Teenager Shona Dawson, 17, watched the episode unfold from her house.
“We could see from just above the Herrislea houses to where the fire was,” she said. “There was really a lot of black smoke and then the lorry stopped.
“There was fire and lots and lots of black smoke. A JBT lorry came along and stopped beside it, and there was another lorry that blocked the traffic so cars couldn’t get through.
“Then the fire engine came up the road and there was white smoke and steam. I did wonder what had happened. I wondered if it had hit something because from where we were it looked like it was on the wrong side of the road, although it wasn’t. The cab of the lorry was completely black and there were bits of it falling off.”
The truck is thought to have caught fire when a turbo shaft failed, causing hot oil to spray on to the exhaust and engine cover, which ignited instantly.
Part of the trailer was also damaged in the blaze, although it was carrying no cargo at the time.