Man questioned after fuel tanker driven into house


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The Independent Online

A man was being questioned on suspicion of attempted murder today after a woman had a lucky escape when a fuel tanker crashed into the front of her bungalow.

Police launched a manhunt for the driver of the Watson Fuels tanker after he fled the scene of the crash and subsequent fire near Wareham in Dorset.

Yesterday a 51-year-old man from Yeovil, Somerset, was arrested nearby and is being quizzed by detectives.

Police said the woman, named locally as Christine Billington, was "safe and well" but the bungalow suffered "significant" damage in the blaze.

According to reports, a man helped avert disaster by reversing the tanker away from the blaze and using a fire extinguisher to put out the flames around the truck.

Railway worker Darren Fletcher told the Sun: "The valves on the tanker had been undone and the passenger side was already on fire. The windscreen and dashboard were also alight.

"The engine was still running so I jumped in the cab and reversed the truck away from the bungalow.

"It's terrifying now to think what could have happened."

Mr Fletcher was reportedly treated at Poole General Hospital for the effects of smoke.

Neighbour Mary Furze, 80, who has lived in the lane for 42 years, said the area was usually "very quiet and peaceful" and the first she knew about what happened was when she saw black smoke billowing across the road.

"We are very lucky - there could have been an explosion from the sounds of it," she said.

Dorset Police appealed for witnesses to the incident to contact them.

A spokesman said: "A 51-year-old Yeovil man has been arrested in Wool on suspicion of attempted murder and is helping police with their inquiries.

"The arrested man is believed to be known to the occupant of the house.

"It is believed a number of people were in the area and may have information that could help the investigation."

Around 30 firefighters attended the blaze, which was brought under control in about an hour.

Pictures released by the fire service show the tanker crashed into the front of the bungalow, having smashed through the front wall and a set of windows.

The front door of the bungalow has been removed and the blaze can be seen to have ripped through the house out towards the back garden.

A large red Watson Fuels tanker is backed away from the home, leaving tyre tracks across the front garden.

A spokeswoman for independently-owned Watson Fuels, based in Brinkworth, Wiltshire, said the firm was unable to comment.