Hunts fuel hero ‘just doing his job’

A CASHIER who turned off forecourt fuel pumps to prevent a fireball after two lorries collided on the A14 was just doing his job, according to his boss – his son.

The collision happened in the early hours of last Wednesday. As a heavy goods vehicle carrying books turned off the eastbound road at Fenstanton to get to the Shell filling station, it is believed to have been struck in the rear by a milk lorry, according to the garage’s CCTV footage.

Manager Wayne Gibbie, who lives in Somersham, said the driver of the first lorry had swung round to avoid hitting the pumps and the vehicle had crashed over onto its side.

His father Paul, from Papworth, who was manning the filling station’s kiosk, saw what was happening and shut off power to the pumps.

“It’s something we train people to do. It’s standard training for all Shell forecourts,” said son Wayne. “He did what he was expected to do.”

The overturned truck came to rest just five feet from the liquefied petroleum gas pump, the most volatile on the forecourt.

Both drivers were taken to hospital for medical check-ups.

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Whatever his son says, one Fenstanton resident who used to manufacture forecourt pumps insisted that Paul Gibbie was “a smart cookie”.

Even though pumps are fitted with a range of safety devices, the risk of a spark igniting vapour remains. “That’s why you should not use mobile phones. It’s not the call that’s the problem – it’s the spark if you drop it.

“And, if fire breaks out, it warms up the canopy, which is plastic and starts to melt. Then you really need to get out of the way. There are quite a lot of electrics up there.

“So the guy was quite smart to shut everything down.”

The crash raised the spectre of an incident on the westbound A14 in 1998, when a lorry left the carriageway and ploughed into a filling station. An employee, who was using the gents’ facilities at the time died in the resulting fireball.

But it was the truck’s own fuel that caught fire, not the tanks at the filling station, according to Malcolm Taylor, who manages forecourt licensing for Cambridgeshire County Council. “The cut-off valves at the base of the pumps worked as they were supposed to,” he told The Hunts Post.

And Brian Humm, head of petroleum at the London Fire Brigade and chairman of the Association for Petroleum and Explosives Administration, said such fires at filling stations were extremely rare. “I’ve only ever seen it happen once in the London area. It’s a one-in-a-million chance.”

Wednesday was not a good day for a combination of Fenstanton and HGVs. In the early evening, a 24-tonne Lithuanian truck foundered outside the King William IV pub, when the driver tried to use a mini-roundabout to do a U-turn to avoid the 7.5-tonne weight limit through the village.

The jack-knifed vehicle, which took police four hours to recover, almost demolished a lamppost that suffered a similar fate at the hands of another HGV driver exactly a year before.