Tanker truck driver dies in Bologna motorway inferno

Rome (AFP) –


The driver of a tanker truck that exploded sending a fireball across a busy motorway in Bologna was killed in the crash and 145 others injured, the Italian government said Tuesday.

The driver, Andrea Anzolin, who was transporting hazardous material, lost his life in the fiery accident Monday afternoon on the road to Bologna airport in northern Italy.

"The initial reconstruction of the event suggests that the incident was caused by the driver of the vehicle that was carrying liquified petroleum gas," Danilo Toninelli, minister for infrastructure and transport, told Italy's Senate Tuesday.

Toninelli added that of the 145 injured, 11 were military police officers at a nearby barracks.

The explosion -- which Toninelli says came four minutes after the tanker crashed into a lorry and burst into flames -- and searing heat from the blaze caused a section of the flyover where the crash took place to collapse onto another road below, leaving a huge crater.

"Given the dynamics of the accident and the potential consequences, we can say that we were lucky," Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said after meeting with the injured in Bologna on Tuesday.

The drivers of the two lorries involved in the crash were both hurt, but Toninelli did not comment on the extent of their injuries.

Italian media described Anzolin as an "expert driver" who had worked for many years in the transportation of flammable materials.

The prosecutor investigating the accident, Giuseppe Amato, told state broadcaster RAI that he believed it could have been caused by Anzolin dozing off at the wheel, but that it was "too early to say so with any certainty".

A video released by the police on Monday shows the tanker ploughing into the back of a lorry, not slowing down as it crashed into the trailer before immediately catching fire.

Another lorry then thumped into the back of the blazing tanker as traffic screeched to a halt.

The three vehicles, covered by a blanket of smoke on an evacuated motorway, were reduced to little more than ash by the massive explosion that swept across the motorway and could be heard throughout the city.

Toninelli said that he wanted to reduce the number of vehicles transporting hazardous materials by road -- which he estimates to be around 35,000 -- and encourage the installation on those vehicles of technology that "reduces (the effects) of human error as much as possible".

"It can be found fairly commonly in new cars, and cannot not be equipped on these heavy goods vehicles that in every moment risk becoming moving bombs."