STAFF at two Whitby businesses have been proclaimed as heroes by the driver of a petrol tanker which burst into flames on Monday morning.
A Sainsbury’s tanker caught fire on Stainsacre Lane, close to the new superstore development, while fully-laden with almost 40,000 litres of fuel.
Driver Robert Ewen, a former British Army sergeant, said that despite serving for 22 years, including tours of Iraq during the second Gulf War, this was one of the most frightening experiences of his life.
He said: “I escorted the first British embassy into Baghdad and it didn’t get my heart racing as much as that did.”
Despite discovering the fire as he drove up Helredale Road, close to residential homes and East Whitby school, Mr Ewen bravely guided his vehicle further up the road to a spot where there would be less chance of injury to passers-by if the vehicle did explode.
After stopping the tanker Mr Ewen used the vehicle’s three on board fire extinguishers in an attempt to douse the flames, but found that they were instantly being reignited by an oxygen leak.
It was at this point that staff from Whitby Tyre and Exhaust and Botham’s bakery, both on Enterprise Way, risked their own safety to rush to the driver’s aid.
Mr Ewen added: “I want to say thanks, they 100 per cent stopped a major problem.”
Botham’s bakers Simon Digby and Dom Sweeting and Whitby Tyre and Exhaust employees Dave McConnell, Fred Crawford and Brian Mould helped fight the fire, using around ten more extinguishers.
Dave McConnell said he saw flames coming from underneath the lorry and called the fire brigade.
He added: “We knew it was carrying fuel so at first we were unsure if we should go over there.
“But once we saw the driver with his fire extinguisher we decided to help him out.”
Fire crews from Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay arrived on the scene and were able to extinguish the remnants of the fire, ensuring that the vehicle was made safe.
Whitby watch manager Chris Watson said: “Luckily it was in the cabin, away from the petrol, otherwise we could have had quite a big incident.”
The tanker, owned by Turners Haulage, was travelling from Sunderland to Scarborough and the driver became aware of a problem when he heard a knocking sound behind the rear of his cabin.
The cabin then burst into flames and suffered extensive damage, but Mr Ewen was able to escape unharmed.