The Polish driver of a truck that set off a major fire inside a long tunnel in western Norway on Monday has been formally charged with negligence in the case. Police claim his truck was overheated and smoking before he drove into the Gudvangen Tunnel.
As many as 20 witnesses questioned by police have said they saw smoke coming from the truck before it caught fire inside the tunnel. Police say the driver is thus charged with operating a motor vehicle that he knew was in no condition to be on the road. That in turn meant that he endangered the lives of other motorists inside the tunnel, police claim.
“It’s emerged that the truck had problems long before the tunnel fire erupted,” Per-Thomas Klingenberg, leader of the police investigation into the dramatic fire, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Klingenberg said the driver therefore must have known about the problems, “and that’s what makes this so serious.”
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Police have questioned the driver three times; in Aurland right after the accident, from his hospital bed in Lærdal and again in Bergen on Wednesday, after he was released from the hospital Tuesday night. Local police are also getting assistance in their investigation from the state police unit Kripos.
They were finally allowed back into the tunnel on Wednesday, after waiting for geologists to determine that it was safe. The wreckage of the Polish truck was towed out earlier. Several other vehicles that had to be abandoned by their occupants, including another truck and a bus, remain inside the tunnel but are expected to be towed out Thursday morning.
Norway’s state commission that investigates transport accidents, Havarikommisjonen, is also assisting in the investigation.