Bystanders, motorists and business owners were left shaken after a truck ran off a busy Wollongong thoroughfare, mounted the footpath and took out a number of shop awnings on Tuesday.
The truck was travelling east on Crown Street, when it left the road outside Cartridge World about 9.30am and careered down the footpath, ripping the awnings down in the process.
The vehicle ended up wedged between the Thai Crown restaurant and a traffic light pole on the corner of Crown Street and Denison Street.
Witness Michael Gatt said he was stopped at the traffic lights when he saw the truck bearing down on him in the rear-view mirror.
“As I viewed what was happening, I said ‘I hope this fellow doesn’t hit me’ because he would’ve done a lot of damage but he swerved to the left, went on to the footpath, took the awnings out and missed my car,” Mr Gatt said.
“Fortunately, he had enough common sense to try and avoid me ... when he realised he couldn’t stop he swerved and went onto the footpath.
“I’m a very lucky person.”
Another witness, Michael Wilson, from Port Kembla, was waiting to cross at the lights when he heard the bang of the truck mounting the footpath behind him.
“Twenty seconds before and I would have been in there walking down [at the crash site]… I panicked and jumped out of the way,” Mr Wilson, 45, said.
“I’m still a bit shaky but glad no one got hurt. If he’d hit the cars there might have been more damage.”
Thunpicha Buachuai – who runs Thunjai Thai Massage – often sweeps the footpath outside her Crown Street shop, which was caught up in the chaos.
Ms Buachuai, 39, told the Mercury she had grabbed a broom and was just moments from stepping outside when the crash unfolded.
“I’m really lucky, you know,” she said.
“I was just standing in the shop. I didn’t know what to do.”
Pictures from inside the shop show pieces of smashed sheeting littering the footpath.
The sheets were found to contain asbestos, with Fire and Rescue NSW hazardous materials crews called in to minimise the risk posed.
“Asbestos … generally poses no risk while it’s in a stable form,” HAZMAT commander Garry Lawler said.
“The problem is when we crash into it and it breaks into little pieces, it becomes unstable and that’s where your risk is.”
Water was used to prevent wind making dust airborne.
Paramedics assessed three people, the truck driver and two bystanders. None required transport to hospital.
Eastbound lanes of Crown Street were closed and CBD traffic was heavy.
The truck driver – a 56-year-old man – was spoken to by police and breath-tested. Police investigations are continuing.
A heavy vehicle inspector also assessed the crash scene.