A man has been charged with 10 offences after he allegedly took a stolen semi-trailer on a rampage through a Hunter Valley town on Wednesday, crashing into cars and buildings and causing a fireball to erupt.
The main street of Singleton was left looking like a war zone after Rodney Johnson, 29, allegedly crashed into several cars, injuring eight people, just before 9am.
One of the injured people, a 64-year-old man, is fighting for his life after being trapped in his car when it was hit by the semi-trailer, which was carrying mushroom compost.
Police are investigating whether mental illnesses suffered by Mr Johnson played a role in the incident. It's understood Mr Johnson, a truck driver who says on his Facebook profile that he is from the NSW town of Quirindi but lives in Penrith, may have been trying to find work as a driver in the area.
Mr Johnson was arrested at the scene and, after being treated for minor injuries in hospital, he was charged overnight with stealing a motor vehicle, two counts of not stopping during a police pursuit (known as Skye's Law), two counts of using an offensive weapon to prevent detention, two counts of assaulting police officers, two counts of malicious damage and resisting an officer.
He was subjected to mandatory blood and urine tests, however was not charged with drug or alcohol-related offences.
He was refused bail to appear in Singleton Local Court on Thursday.
A critical incident team from Port Stephens Local Area Command is investigating all circumstances surrounding the incident.
Police had received reports earlier on Wednesday that a semi-trailer was stolen from a petrol station in Murrurundi, north of Singleton, while the driver was paying for fuel about 7.30am.
The fully-laden semi-trailer was allegedly seen driving erratically about 100 kilometres south on the New England Highway, passing through Muswellbrook towards Singleton.
Police said they did not initiate a pursuit but deployed road spikes to stop the vehicle.
The truck continued up George Street in Singleton before crashing into buildings and cars and bursting into flames. A witness told Nine News he saw a plume of black smoke.
"I drove around the back streets to get around and saw a huge fireball and what looked like a car transporter with cars all over the road," the witness said.
NSW Ambulance Inspector Luke Wiseman said eight people were treated and four taken to hospital, including a 64-year-old man who was flown to Newcastle's John Hunter Hospital in a critical condition with head and chest injuries.
A 62-year-old woman was also taken to John Hunter Hospital with pelvic and hip injuries.
Another man, also 64, was taken to John Hunter Hospital with neck, back and chest pain.
Mr Wiseman described the initial scene as "chaotic", involving "a number of distressed people".