Stolen ambulance taken for joyride

April 22, 2009 9:30:23 PM PDT
Imagine the surprise of a couple of Houston paramedics when they went to take a patient to their ambulance and it wasn't there. That's because someone stole it near Navigation and York and took it on an extremely brief joyride. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

We've all heard it takes only seconds to steal a vehicle. That now includes an ambulance in the middle of a 911 call.

Just after 5pm Wednesday evening, two EMT's from Station 17 in the Second Ward responded to a call at the Family Dollar Store near Navigation and York. A woman inside needed medical attention.

When the EMT's came outside, their parking spot was empty. The $100,000 HFD ambulance was gone. It wasn't responding to a call, rather on a short joyride.

A tracking device on the unit located the ambulance over a mile away at Commerce and York. When Houston police arrived, the ambulance was abandoned. A quick search of the area for the suspect turned up nothing.

In the meantime, an ambulance from nearby Station 18 was called to transport the patient inside the store to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Paramedics said it is common procedure to leave the ambulance running.

"To keep it cool for the patients' comfort once they come outside. Also, we're storing medications inside the ambulance and a lot of the medications need to be stored in cool temperatures," said Capt. Larry Batiste, Paramedice Supervisor of Station 17.

The ambulance was not damaged and nothing was stolen inside. Paramedics said it's hard to believe someone would steal an ambulance, especially when a patient was in need. They said it's something they'll have to factor in when the respond to the next call.

"The only feasible way we can lock it is to have an extra set of keys. We have to leave the keys in the ignition to run it because you can't pull the key out," said Capt. Batiste.

Representatives from the Family Dollar Store told us they did provide HPD with a copy of surveillance video showing the suspect leaving the store so police should have a good description of that subject.

As for the ambulance, we were told it was returned to service shortly after being recovered.

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