Monday, May 20th, 2024

The day a tanker fire caused a massive black cloud over Sevenoaks and a ‘river of fire’ ran down the road

The air was filled with black acrid smoke.

FIFTY years ago this week a massive black smoke cloud drifted over the Sevenoaks area.

It was caused when a tanker overturned as it came off the A21 slip road at Bessels Green and turned towards Westerham onto the A25. The 6,000 gallons of petrol it was carrying spilled into the road and then flooded into fields before bursting into flames.

The drama was caught on camera in a series of dramatic black and white pictures by local photographer Roger Tutt who said: “One interesting point for me was in those days I could get as close as I wanted to take pictures.

“I didn’t have a telephoto, just a standard lens and it never entered my head it was dangerous!”

Eyewitnesses at the time described the scene as a river of fire which ran down the road and dripped off the nearby bridge. Six fire crews from Sevenoaks, Seal, Tonbridge and Maidstone were called in to fight the fire which was so hot it caused the metal work on nearby fences to buckle and residents in nearby houses on Westerham Road had to be evacuated because the heat was unbearable.

The tanker driver was George Green from Ilford who managed to escape uninjured. He was taking the petrol from Grays in Essex to Horley in Surrey for the Atlantic Oil Company. He believed a spark caused by the tanker hitting the road as it overturned ignited the petrol.

In an interview at the time he said he had no idea why the tanker overturned and added: “I was not driving very fast. You can’t go fast up a slip-way road with those things. You get well paid for the job and after a time you don’t think about what you have got behind you.”

Six fire crews were called in to battle the blaze.

The charred remains of the petrol tanker.

The scene of the fire and how it looks today.

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