Driverless van in flames stops 8ft from houses

Reader Martyn Rice's picture of the scene.
Reader Martyn Rice's picture of the scene.
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A DELIVERY man from Holbeach had a dramatic escape when his van burst into flames and was left moving along a busy road with no driver.

Eric Lowery, a driver for vending company NVCS, was on A151 at Moulton on Tuesday afternoon when his clutch failed and smoke started coming from his bonnet.

Driver Eric Lowery looks on as fellow NVCS staff direct traffic around the burnt-out van. (photo: TIM WILSON)

Driver Eric Lowery looks on as fellow NVCS staff direct traffic around the burnt-out van. (photo: TIM WILSON)

But after pulling over to extinguish flames, the fire spread and fused wires restarted the engine – leaving it to move along the road with no driver towards nearby homes.

“The clutch went down to the floor and then I saw some smoke or steam coming from the bonnet,” said Mr Lowery, who lives in Willders Garth.

“I pulled over and there was a small flame down the bottom of the engine. I got some water from the van and I thought that was it.

“Then I jumped back when a flame shot from underneath. I could not believe how quickly it happened.”

Delivery driver Eric Lowery with the burnt-out van. (photo: TIM WILSON)

Delivery driver Eric Lowery with the burnt-out van. (photo: TIM WILSON)

Mr Lowery (49) said the windows then blew out and to his amazement, the engine started.

“It was going down the road and I didn’t think I could stop it,” he said. “It kept rolling but then started to go towards two houses. Then I was really panicking.”

Mr Lowery ran alongside the passenger side of the van hoping to pull on the handbrake but realised it was on the driver’s side. The cab was too hot to climb in and reach across.

He called on a neighbour to find some bricks to put under the wheels but thankfully the van came to a standstill on its own about eight feet from the homes.

Firefighters arrived on the scene minutes later to put out the blaze.

All that now remains of the driver’s cab is the steering column.

Mr Lowery, who has driven for NVCS for about three-and-a-half years, had only had the Citroen Relay van since last Wednesday and it only had about 460 miles on the clock.

“When you start thinking about it it could have been a lot worse,” he said. “If the clutch cable had not been burnt through I would not have known. The fuel could have ignited near the houses.”

When Mr Lowery rung to tell his bosses what had happened, they thought it was a joke – until they heard the sirens and were later sent pictures from a mobile phone.

He said: “Not one person stopped to help, traffic was still coming.

“Those behind would not have known it was on fire but the ones in front would have seen. A couple of drivers slowed right down to have a look.”

The back of the van was filled with items to stock vending machines, which are now smoke damaged.

Mr Lowery said bags of crisps popped in the heat and Mini Cheddars “melted like cheese on toast”.

His jacket and car keys melted because of the heat.

Mr Lowery’s family were “devastated” to hear the news.

“It’s only when your family are around and you realise what has happened,” he added.