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18399 Chemical accident in New zealand with oil n.o.s.
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General accident information
Class/Quality * * *
Year 2002
Summary Bus with 32 tourists was set
On fire in tunnel when diesel
Engine caught fire causing
Heavy smoke and 3 casualties
Country NZ
Location TUNNEL
Chemicals Oil n.o.s.
Cause Technical-failure
Fatalities/Injuries 0 / 4
Occurrences or events Defective-working, Drive, Drive, Drive,
Drive, El-power-brake, Emergency-stop, Evacuation,
Explosion, Fill, Fire, Fire,
Fire fighting/Emergency response, Human-operations, Safety-measures, Smoke-emission,
Traffic-interruption, Wrong-position
Full accident information 
download accident report Click here to view a document containing the full accident information

Date : 2002 1103

A bus with 32 tourists had stopped when the oil warning light came on during the uphill approach to a tunnel through the mountains. The driver inspected the motor and put a liter of oil in. He continued to drive into the tunnel (length=1270/m) and when the bus was about 150/m-200/m through the unlit tunnel flames from around the diesel engine suddenly appeared in the bus rear-view mirror. The driver stopped the 45-seater coach immediately and ordered the group of 32 tourists off. They had to come in the pitch black because the bus lost all power. The fire had burned through the cables.
People were hanging on the back of the driver's coat for a guide. Three tourists suffered smoke inhalation and were flown to hospital. Another had a sprained ankle. All were brought to hospital and discharged. The fire brigade feared the hot rock of the tunnel would explode if they put water on it so fire-retardant foam had to be used instead.
After the fire was extinguished, rock and bus debris were removed and the tunnel was reopened more than 24/hours after the fire.
Damage to the tunnel was superficial. The intense heat melted and wrapped some watersheds, which prevent water leaking into the tunnel, and they will be repaired over the few days.
However, every morning the tunnel was inspected for 14/days. Every morning the tunnel will be closed from 0700 hours for up to 2/hours inspection and checking of the fire sites.
The tunnel is located in remote mountainous terrain and the nearest town is almost 2/hours travel away. The tunnel is 1270/m long on a steep 10% grade, with a 3.81/m height clearance. The tunnel is narrow and two way for cars, but generally one-way for busses. The tunnel is unlit.
A solar powered emergency telephone at the eastern portal of the tunnel is already installed and authorities are looking at installing another at the other portal. Mobile phones do not work in the area.
The work on the tunnel was started in 1935 and officially opened in 1953.

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