A SALVAGE operation continued into last night to remove a laden cattle truck that crashed into the Tangaratta Creek Bridge near Tamworth yesterday, claiming the life of the driver.
Oxley Highway was closed for hours as emergency crews worked at the scene, first freeing the driver’s body from the truck’s cabin, which had been crushed against the bridge pylons, and then removing dead cattle and the truck from the scene.
An unknown number of cattle were killed or injured and diesel fuel from a ruptured fuel tank leaked into the creek.
The B-double truck left the road and rolled at the bridge on the Oxley Highway, about 10km west of the city, about 3pm.
Police believe the truck was travelling south, bound for Cargill abattoir at Tamworth, when it lost control on a sweeping bend that has been the scene of other serious accidents over the years.
An off-duty police officer was first on the scene.
Police officers euthanased distressed cattle that had been crushed or injured in the trailers, which rested on their sides near the creek.
Oxley Local Area Command duty officer, Inspector Jeff Budd, said the recovery effort was expected to continue late into last night.
He said firefighters had set up booms to contain the diesel spill in the creek.
Multiple emergency services crews, including police, crime scene, crash investigation, paramedics, Rural Fire Service, NSW Fire Brigades and Ambulance Rescue units responded to the scene.
Heavy-vehicle cranes were called in to remove the truck so the highway could be reopened.
Afternoon traffic between Tamworth and Somerton was diverted at Gidley-Siding Road and Bowlers Lane.
The detour was expected to be in place until about midnight.
Yesterday’s fatal crash happened at the same bridge where a horrific bus accident occurred on January 5, 1992, claiming the lives of five people .
A double-decker Pioneer bus en route from Brisbane to Melbourne slammed into the bridge on a Saturday night.
The crash claimed the lives of an eight-year-old girl, as well as three women and a man.
Inspector Budd said police were continuing their investigations into the cause of yesterday’s crash and a report would be prepared for the coroner.