THREE men are lucky to be alive tonight after being engulfed in flames when the 4WD ute they were in suddenly exploded on the Pacific Motorway near Somersby, on the NSW Central Coast.
Police said the men were travelling in the Toyota Hilux, driving north along the M1 on Wednesday night when, shortly after 10 o’clock, something under the driver seat “suddenly exploded”.
Robert Smith, 42, was driving the Hilux when it was engulfed in flames, melting his hands to the steering wheel.
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A man in the back seat leaped from the burning vehicle while it was still moving before Robert’s brother, Jade, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, yanked on the handbrake and the vehicle smashed into the guardrail.
Jade then jumped out of the Hilux and dragged his brother out of his seat and away from the burning wreck.
Firefighters were quick to arrive and extinguish the blaze, but the vehicle’s entire interior was totally destroyed.
Robert sustained severe third-degree burns to almost 20 per cent of his body, particularly to his arms and legs.
He was stabilised by paramedics at the scene before being rushed to Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital.
His brother and back seat passenger were both taken to Gosford Hospital for treatment to minor burns.
The back seat passenger was also treated for injuries he sustained after jumping out of the moving vehicle.
It remains unclear what exactly sparked the blast.
It’s understood police are investigating whether an aerosol can under the driver’s seat or a fault with the vehicle was to blame.