A heavy vehicle transporting hay to flood affected farmers in the Northern Rivers as part of the Need for Feed Australia delivery, was set alight while parked alongside the Big River Way in South Grafton last week as the driver slept in the cab.
The incident occurred shortly before 2am on April 10 when passing truck drivers saw smoke and flames coming from the rear of the heavy vehicle and alerted the driver before notifying the authorities and emergency services.
The truck was carrying 13 large squares of hay and 30 large rounds of hay and had travelled more than 1300km with another heavy vehicle, also transporting hay, from Numurkah in Victoria to the Clarence Valley.
The second heavy vehicle was also stationary on the side of the Big River Way, ahead of the truck involved in the incident, and did not sustain any damage.
South Grafton Fire and Rescue 307 Station Captain Paul Danvers attended the scene along with several crew members and revealed while the fire had been deliberately lit, the outcome could have been a lot worse.
“It was definitely the hay, which was targeted, but luckily the fire didn’t really take hold,” he said.
“Four hay bales were lit up and a vinyl sign on the back of the truck was destroyed, but thankfully there was no damage to the heavy vehicle.
“The rest of the freight remained intact, and crews used a high-pressure hose to extinguish the fire.”
Captain Danvers also confirmed the truck driver did not sustain any injuries.
The heavy vehicle involved belongs to Goulburn Valley Crane Trucks.
Co-owners Terry and Robyn Coonan were accompanying their convoy north and were asleep in a nearby motel when the incident occurred.
Mrs Coonan said their business has provided more than 20 truckloads of produce for Need for Feed Australia since 2018 to help battling farmers, and nothing like this has every happened before.
“The fact that someone can see it’s a charity, people supporting others, and they try and cause this sort of damage because they probably think it’s funny is quite upsetting,” she said.
“The banner on the back of the truck was ruined and we lost a little bit of hay, but the rest was still able to be unloaded and used.
“Our driver was shaken up, but he’s ok now.
“It could have been much worse.”
Coffs Clarence Police District Chief Inspector Joanne Reid said anyone with information surrounding the circumstances of the fire are urged to contact Grafton Police on 66 420 222 or CrimeStoppers on 1800 333 000.