A DRUNKEN joyrider drove off in an ambulance rapid response vehicle while the driver was on an emergency call saving a man’s life.
John Heesom, 23, who had drunk nine pints of lager and some ‘shots’, was walking home when he noticed the Ford Focus estate car in full ambulance service livery parked with its ignition keys still inside.
The driver had been called to a seriously ill man’s house and had rushed in with a defibrillator and he also called for an ambulance to take the patient to hospital.
But when the ambulance crew arrived, the rapid response vehicle had disappeared from outside the house in Caergwrle.
Heesom had got into the car and drove off, but hit a kerb and then drove on the rim of one of the wheels as the tyre disintegrated.
Heesom, whose parents run a local pub, then abandoned the vehicle, fully equipped with life-saving equipment, and tried to set it on fire.
The North Wales Ambulance Service had to write-off the vehicle because of the smoke damage.
Many of the items of equipment and drugs inside also had to be scrapped.
Apart from the inconvenience of having to secure another rapid response vehicle, the ambulance service was more than £5,000 out of pocket because of the escapade, Flintshire Magistrates Court at Mold, heard.
Heesom, of Ye Old Talbot Inn at Cymau, between Mold and Wrexham, admitted aggravated vehicle taking, drink driving and a driving licence offence after he took the vehicle from Hope Street, Caergwrle, in the early hours of Sunday, February 24.
Sentence was adjourned but he was warned he could face immediate imprisonment.
An interim driving ban was imposed and he was bailed to his brother’s address in the Runcorn area.
He was told it was an aggravating feature the vehicle was an emergency vehicle which was actually being used in a life-saving situation at the time.
Tracey Willingham, prosecuting, said North Wales Police received a call at 12.30am from the ambulance service to report one of its rapid response vehicles had been stolen from outside a patient’s house in Caergwrle while a paramedic was responding to a 999 call.
The vehicle was fitted with a tracker device and it was found abandoned about a mile away.
Both front wheels were damaged, one wheel had been driven on the rim, and there was smoke damage to the vehicle after an attempt had been made to set it on fire.
Heesom was found walking a short distance away. He was drunk, and initially denied involvement but then admitted his responsibility.
He was found to have 60 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath compared to the legal limit of 35mgs, and told police he had been drinking in Hope and Caergwrle.
He was walking home when he saw the vehicle with the ignition keys inside and he decided to get in and drive home.
Heesom claimed he had not realised it was an emergency vehicle but the prosecutor said it was in full ambulance service livery.
He hit a kerb, panicked, decided to abandon the vehicle and tried to set the vehicle on fire.
Heesom said he had used a lighter to set fire to the driver’s seat but put it out before leaving.
He told officers he had been stupid.
Miss Willingham told the court: “He did not know why he had done it and expressed remorse.”
The vehicle had to be written off mainly because of the smoke damage, and drugs and equipment inside, including a £900 machine used to suck blood from a patient’s throat, were of no further use.
The total compensation bill was £5,768.
Chris Jesse, defending, said he conceded there were aggravating features to the case but said Heesom was a young man of no convictions who had admitted responsibility immediately and had pleaded guilty at his very first appearance.
Heesom told the court he was just about to start a new job and was hoping to move back to his parents’ home at Cymau once the case was over.