Belfast Telegraph

Larne man admits £1.5m fire engine rampage

By Michael Donnelly

A young Larne man who caused an estimated £1.5million damage when he took a fire engine on a rampage through Larne admitted a catalogue of offending including criminal damage and motoring offences.

During his drive of destruction in the early hours of March 5 last year, Ross Clarke not only crashed into the fire station wall, and six terraced homes, but also careered into seven parked cars and a lorry.

The vehicles were strewn across the road - one flipped on to its roof - with the fire engine, its blue emergency lights still flashing, finally coming to a halt in the front garden of one of the houses in Larne's Glenarm Road.

Residents were met with a startling scene when they were awoken around 4.30am by the crashing appliance, previously described by one lawyer, like a trailer for the next ‘Hangover’ movie.

The 20-year-old, who had never been behind the wheel of a car, never mind a fire engine, pleaded guilty to a total of 21 charges, including the aggravated taking of the fire engine and to causing damage to the Agnew Street station.

Clarke, originally of Fairway in Larne, but now with an address in Rathcoole, Newtownabbey, also admitted causing criminal damage to the six houses, a shop doorway, nine vehicle, including the fire engine, attempted burglary, dangerous driving, driving without insurance, and failing either to report, stop, or remain at the scene of an accident.

Antrim Crown Court Judge Paul Ramsey QC said he would review the case next month and set a possible date for his sentencing.

Defence barrister Neil Moore told an earlier court hearing that Clarke has a "severe learning disability", and also revealed that he had never driven a vehicle before which may account for the damage to Larne Fire Station as he attempted to reverse back into the depot.

The same court also heard claims that at one stage the Clarke did not go down one street because it was one-way and on another occasion he even stopped the fire engine at a set of red traffic lights.

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