By Chris Barber
AVONDALE -- A big rig exploded in the center of the borough Thursday morning, leaving the trailer and demolished cab in ruins along Pennsylvania Avenue.
The driver, James Moore, escaped without injuries just before the flames overtook the entire cab. He said he was driving south on Route 41 to New Jersey when his cab filled up with smoke at about 9:30 a.m. Then, he said, he saw flames on the floor. He stopped and got out at the 3rd Street intersection just in time.
Connie Yarnall, who lives across the street, said she heard a crash and then two loud bangs. She looked out and saw flames shooting as high as 30 feet in the air, scorching the trees above.
As a result, electricity and phone power was lost as far away as the state police barracks in London Grove Township.
State trooper Mark Perloff, who was staffing the desk at the barracks at the time of the incident without benefit of power, phone or Internet, said the cause of the fire was unknown.
Traffic was rerouted around Avondale for several hours from Route 1 in the north to State Street in the south.
Fire police from Longwood, Kennett, Avondale, West Grove, Cochranville and New Castle, Del., were called to control the busy flow of traffic that traverses Route 41 and ordinarily goes through the tree lined center of the borough daily.
Blittersdorf towing was called to haul the rig away, but it took workers extra time to drain what appeared to be fluids from the remains before the tow-away was begun.
Avondale resident Lukie Parsons said she and her husband were driving behind the truck at the time when they saw smoke and smelled the strong odor of burning. They realized it was coming from the truck and then saw flames that looked as if they were engulfing the entire truck.
“My husband said, ‘There’s going to be an explosion,’ so we turned on 4th Street, put the car in the garage and closed the door,” she said.
Neighbors including Mayor Dottie Howell watched for several hours as cleanup efforts were completed.