A Middletown man escaped injury after the oil tanker truck he was driving caught fire on Del. Route 1 this morning near Bear.

The incident happened at about 7:24 a.m., as Virgil M. Patterson, 53, of Middletown, was driving a 2009 Freightliner Tanker truck owned by Craft Oil Corporation, carrying over 1,000 gallons of engine oil.

Patterson was driving south on Route 1 approaching School House Road when he heard a loud band and thought he had blown a tire. Smoke began billowing into the driver's compartment.

Patterson pulled over to the shoulder of the road and came to a stop as the engine compartment burst into flames.

Patterson tried to extinguish the flames with an on-board fire extinguisher, but was unable to put out the fire which was quickly spreading.

A passerby assisted in moving Patterson away from the truck until firefighters could arrive to put the fire out. 

Neither Patterson nor the passerby was injured in the incident, police said.

DNREC, DelDOT, and Belvedere Hazmat teams remained at the scene for about three-and-a-half hours while the cleanup of the contaminants was conducted.

Traffic was affected during that time with lane restrictions, police said.