An Irish livestock haulage company has said it is “devasted” after a fire broke out on one of its livestock lorries in northern Italy.

The incident, which took place near the city of Turin last Tuesday (March 19), resulted in the driver being briefly hospitalised for smoke inhalation. He is otherwise okay and has since returned to Ireland.

According to Shortall International Transport, a number of cattle were killed, while the majority were removed from the lorry and were checked by local vets before being given “a clean bill of health”.

A company representative called the incident “a freak accident”, with the cause yet to be determined.

Shortall said the trailer, where the fire occurred, was only about 4 years old. It’s the first time the company has experienced such an incident in 15 years of transporting livestock, it said.

According to the company, the incident occurred only 30 minutes after the driver had ended his 45-minute obligatory rest period from driving.

During his break, he had checked the lorry and did not notice anything that would indicate an issue, such as a smell of burning or any part of the trailer being excessively hot.

According to Shortall, the driver had about 12 or 13 years experience in transporting livestock, and would have “copped [an issue with the lorry] in seconds”.

The company said the driver did “his utmost” but was “powerless” to prevent the fire, which occurred when the lorry was only an hour-and-a-half from its destination.

Shortall praised the response of the local emergency services, with the fire service on the scene in about seven minutes. A company representative travelled to Italy after the incident to liaise with police.

Shortall is also in contact with the manufacturer of the trailer to determine the cause of the incident. This particular trailer has been written off and will not be on the road again, the company said.

The livestock haulage business said that the speed at which the fire started, so soon after the driver had been on his rest period, was “frightening”.

“We’re devasted. It’s a terrible thing to have happened but we have to move on… It was an unfortunate accident [and] traumatic for everyone involved,” Shortall said.