It was an unusual early morning scene on Durgabai Deshmukh Road in Adyar when a crowd, including women and children, enthusiastically collected unrefined cooking oil leaking from a tanker lorry that had toppled over at the spot.

The traffic police said the tanker was transporting nearly 15 tonnes of oil from the harbour to a private cooking oil refinery in Chitlapakkam, with Jayakumar (35) of Medavakkam behind the wheel. Around 5.30 a.m., when the heavy vehicle had passed the Adyar bridge and was on Durgabai Deshmukh Road, the driver lost control and rammed into the median.

In the impact, the vehicle toppled on to its side and the oil started to spill on the road. The driver, who was trapped in the vehicle, was rescued by passers-by. He was sent to a hospital nearby and his condition is said to be stable. Investigators suspect Jayakumar had dozed off behind the wheel.

News of the accident and the oil spill spread in the nearby residential locality and people rushed to the spot with pots and plastic bags and started collecting the oil without realising that it was crude. A police team reached the spot and cleared the crowd.

The owners of the lorry arrived at the spot soon after and collected the remaining oil in a tanker to transport to the refinery, sources said.

More In: Chennai | Society