THE SURVIVOR: Tony with his wife Barbara and daughter Elizabeth Eden.
THE SURVIVOR: Tony with his wife Barbara and daughter Elizabeth Eden. Andrew Messenger

God saved me from burning rig for a reason: truckie

FOR Tony Eden to be alive today is nothing short of a miracle.

The truck driver was lying broken and melting under a 50-tonne bomb.

In addition to that he had broken half a dozen bones, including his neck, in the massive truck crash. He should have died.

Worse still, his vehicle was carrying a 52-tonne load of ammonium nitrate. Mixed with diesel and an inevitable spark, his load was powerful enough to create a massive blast, the biggest in peacetime Australian history.

And he was lying within centimetres of it.

It was the night of September 5, last year, a little after 10pm, when Tony noticed a fire in his rig. In his attempts to stop, Tony ran off the road, crashing into Angellala Creek.

EXPLOSION: The scene of an explosion caused after a truck carrying ammonium nitrate crashed and rolled between Charleville and Wyandra.
EXPLOSION: The scene of an explosion caused after a truck carrying ammonium nitrate crashed and rolled between Charleville and Wyandra. Contributed

Two fire trucks had been called to fight a bushfire, but they were driving to face something much worse.

They knew they were facing ammonium nitrate. It was a snatch-and-grab job, to be done as quick as possible.

Meanwhile, Tony forced himself to crawl on his hands through fire and dirt, sloughing off patches of skin. Then, he stood and started walking away from his blazing wreck.

He had lost 32% of his skin. The doctors replaced it with a hunk from his back, leaving a noticeable colour change to his arms.

To look at him nowadays, you might think the genial, blokey man was a victim of napalm or the Taliban.

But this terror-filled event took place in the heart of Queensland, just outside Charleville.

Tony was minutes, maybe seconds, away from being blown to pieces.

"The news nicknamed me barbecue boy," he said.

"I was in a world of hurt, the thought going through my head: Why God me?

"And then - 'thank you God, you got me out'."

Tony is a devout Christian - he was even before the accident.

‘BOMB’ SURVIVOR: Truck driver Tony Eden with the only page of his Bible (inset) that survived a massive truck explosion. With the truck carrying ammonium nitrate, Tony was sitting close to a ‘bomb’.
‘BOMB’ SURVIVOR: Truck driver Tony Eden with the only page of his Bible (inset) that survived a massive truck explosion. With the truck carrying ammonium nitrate, Tony was sitting close to a ‘bomb’. Andrew Messenger

He still carries the only page of his Bible to survive the explosion, Psalm 31. It was found up a tree by the State Emergency Service.

The verse reads in part: "In you, oh Lord, I have taken refuge...

"Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue...

"Be merciful to me, oh Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief."

For Tony, it's a sign from above.

The injury toll from the explosion was eight and included four firefighters, a police officer and two other truck drivers who had stopped to help.

Tony was back in Charleville this week to remember the anniversary of the worst - and best - day of his life.

He addressed a combined congregation of Church of Christ and Presbyterian church-goers.

"I'm coming back on the 12-month anniversary to say thank you to all the people who helped and to help move on," he said.

Physically Tony is doing much better. He can walk, which is nothing short of a miracle in itself.

"It's been a bit of a rocky road...

"There were eight of us there with a firecracker going off in the background and not one of us died.

"(After the explosion) I don't remember four weeks.

"I've still got a few issues I'm working through... the sheer thought of hopping back into a lorry. I miss it.

"But at the same time, it scares the living daylights out of me."

Will he ever drive a truck again?

"No," said his wife, firmly.



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