Belfast Telegraph

Larne residents tell of terror after stolen fire truck rampages through street, leaving trail of carnage in wake

By Allan Preston

A woman whose home was ploughed into by a stolen fire engine as it careered down a street in Larne has told of her terror.

Stunned residents said it was lucky no one was killed. But the damage to their houses and cars will cost thousands of pounds.

Yesterday afternoon the aftermath of the incident at Glenarm Road - which happened just after 4.30am on Saturday - was plain to see.

Two vehicles were completely crushed on one side. They were still parked outside their owners' homes yesterday.

One home on the street had its front door completely smashed and the tyre tracks of the fire truck - stolen from the town's station - could be plainly seen in the front garden.

Una Lashford (67) and her husband John (65) can no longer leave their home by the front door after the fire engine smashed into their property, damaging the family car and ruining the garden.

"It was like three or four bombs going off and it was just getting closer and louder with each one," explained Una.

"We nearly leapt out of bed and our hearts were pounding.

"When we opened the window and looked down, there was a fire engine below us.

"It was just total shock and total disbelief when we saw the carnage on the street.

"We couldn't get out our front door, it was hanging off and there was rubble everywhere."

After inspecting the damage with neighbours and checking everyone was all right, John suffered a bad asthma attack having been out in the cold morning air, and had to be taken to hospital.

"It has just caused a lot of stress," said Una.

"There's no way we could meet the cost of repairs, so I hope insurance will cover it.

"The garden's ruined and a lovely tree that my daddy - who's dead now - bought me is gone.

"It's a small thing, but it hurts nevertheless."

Mrs Lashford praised the response of the emergency services and paramedics who rushed to the scene at Glenarm Road to offer assistance.

Eilish (72) and Colum Gorman (76) woke up to discover their car had been flipped upside down and had landed on a postbox.

"The number plate from their vehicle was still lying in their front garden.

"I heard the loud bang and was awakened by the sound of it. I looked out the window and my car wasn't there and I just thought someone had stolen it," said Colum.

"Then I looked out and saw my car on the back of a pillarbox just there, upside down. Can you imagine that?"

Eilish added: "People were laughing and being humorous about it, but the reality of it is all of us are going to get very little from the insurance. We'll hardly get £2,000 from the insurance for our car, and we would have paid nearly £14,000 for it."

Paul Graham (59) lives next door to where the fire engine finally stopped. Luckily his house escaped damage.

"The fire engine was just perched maybe a foot away from our wall," he said.

"One of the fireman at the scene said to me the vehicle, which costs around £250,000, was totally wrecked.

"I was talking to a man who works in the harbour; he said he saw it flying round the roundabout about four in the morning with the sirens going.

"It was terrible. If any of the neighbours had been coming out their front door it would have been fatal."

Jane Jobling and her husband Tom, both in their 60s, lost their family car in the carnage.

"I was brought up in Belfast in the Troubles and it was as if a bomb had gone off - it was as bad as that," said Jane.

"I pulled on my dressing gown and went straight out. This elderly man was walking around and had climbed out of the fire engine, he was asking people if he could get a lift home. The police arrived around 10 to 15 minutes after it happened and put him into the back seat of the car."

Jane said her husband doubted he would get the full insurance money to replace it.

Addressing those responsible, she said: "Had that have happened in the daytime I'd say somebody would have been killed. I don't want to be vindictive, but I think they should have to pay with their time, go to prison."

Sean Kearney (79) also lost his car and said he would struggle to replace it.

"My car is a write-off. It's 10 years old, so I won't get much for it," he explained.

"It's going to cost me money, the insurance people aren't going to pay much. The car's only worth £1,500.

"There's no way I'm going to get compensation, I don't see it."

Geraldine Connon runs her tailoring business from her house on Glenarm Road.

Her garden was damaged, but her house was thankfully unscathed. She said she initially feared she would have had to close her business of 25 years.

"It would have been a sad day if that fire truck had destroyed the building because there's so much history there," she said.

"That few seconds of madness, it would have called a halt to the whole thing. The fact that the truck didn't go through the house and it didn't explode means everything, because we've been able to clean up and keep going."

Two men aged 66 and 19 were arrested and are due to appear in Coleraine Magistrates Court today. The 66-year-old was charged with five offences, including burglary and aggravated vehicle taking causing damage to property.

Belfast Telegraph


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