JOYRIDERS who stole an ambulance while paramedics tended to an assault victim have been blasted by police and paramedic chiefs for putting lives at risk.
Yobs took the vehicle in the early hours while it was parked outside a house in Wynyard Road, in the Owton Manor area of Hartlepool.
After a search which included the Cleveland Police helicopter and the North East Ambulance Service’s (NEAS) control room tracking system, it was found 20 minutes later abandoned, with its lights flashing and with all its equipment intact, in the middle of the road in nearby Monach Road.
Ambulance bosses and police chiefs say although fortunately the victim only required treatment at the scene, this had taken one of Hartlepool’s vehicles off the road and endangered lives.
Acting Inspector Gary Cowan, of Hartlepool Police, said: “The lowest of crimes has left an ambulance off the road. It could have left people in a dangerous situation with no emergency service to attend.
“Whoever did this probably saw this as a prank, but at the end of the day this was taking a vehicle without consent which could have cost people’s lives.
He added: “It was dumped in the middle of the road and looked like it had been taken for a joyride.
“Police urge anyone with information about this theft to call us due to the fact this took both emergency services off the road for some considerable time. It left Hartlepool without an ambulance. Thankfully, the victim wasn’t going with the paramedics, she was treated at the scene, but this meant the ambulance was not available for anybody else.”
An NEAS spokesman said it was thought that paramedics were inside the house and police officers noticed the ambulance was not there.
He added: “If this patient was in a more serious state and treatment was delayed, then these people don’t know the seriousness of their actions.
“This was very serious. It could have cost someone’s life.”
Anyone with information about the incident, which happened around 1.40am yesterday, is urged to call PC Kevin Stones of Hartlepool Police on (01642) 302126 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.