Toowoomba fire communications officer Leigh Frame is congratulated by colleagues and firefighters for receiving a Commissioner's Unit Citation.
Toowoomba fire communications officer Leigh Frame is congratulated by colleagues and firefighters for receiving a Commissioner's Unit Citation. Bev Lacey

Truck explosion rescuer saved her mates' lives

IT WASN'T until Leigh Frame heard her mates' voices over the fire communications radio that she felt like falling apart.

Such was her relief at knowing the firefighters with whom she worked had survived a massive fertiliser truck explosion near Charleville on the evening of September 5 last year.

Mrs Frame, who works in Toowoomba as a Queensland Fire and Emergency Services fire communication officer, yesterday recalled trying to manage the incident.

She spoke after her efforts and those of colleague James Harris were recognised with Commissioner's Unit Citations presented by executive manager of state fire communications Superintendent Bevan Moore.

TRUCK EXPLOSION DECIMATES HIGHWAY

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"When we sent them, we didn't know which is the way we deal with every incident," Mrs Frame said.

"But once the crews got on scene, we knew something had gone pear-shaped, but we didn't know what."

A 52-tonne load of ammonium nitrate had detonated.

"We didn't know if our crews were okay.

"We didn't know if they were even alive for some time due to the poor communication, no phone line, no mobiles and that sort of thing."

She said it was a very tense time.

"Having worked with these guys for so long, you build up a rapport with them as well so they're your mates basically, they're your crews, your team.

"To not know if they are okay or not is difficult, to say the least."

The crew did report in, but their injuries meant they could not hear the questions being asked by Mrs Frame and Mr Harris.

Despite their distress, she said it was a huge relief to hear they were alive.

"That's probably when you feel like falling apart because until then you have got to do your job.

"Once you know that they're okay, you've still obviously got to do your job, but the relief that sets in is huge."

Receiving the citations was a welcome achievement for her team.

"For us to be recognised by the Commissioner and through all of this is incredible."


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