Fury after hoax call leads to crash

By Juliette MaxamA FIRE officer angrily condemned last night a prankster whose hoax call led to a road accident that left a man critically ill in hospital.

By Juliette Maxam

A FIRE officer angrily condemned last night a prankster whose hoax call led to a road accident that left a man critically ill in hospital.

His fierce criticism came after a fire engine answering a 999 emergency call was involved in a collision with a moped in Clacton.

It is believed the moped rider, a 23-year-old man from Clacton, suffered multiple fractures in the crash, which happened at 1.15am yesterday. He was taken to Colchester General Hospital, where his condition was said last night to be "critical, but stable".

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The fire engine, from Clacton Fire Station, was on its way to West Avenue following an emergency call reporting a fence and possibly a shed alight - but it later turned out to be a hoax.

Station Officer Nigel Dilley, of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service headquarters, said: "If this prank call hadn't been made, that appliance wouldn't have been mobilised and that accident wouldn't have happened.

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"We had an incident in Basildon about a year ago where a woman died in a house fire while appliances had been mobilised to a school on fire which wasn't. A young lad had made the call. That hoax call cost a woman her life."

Mr Dilley said yesterday's collision had taken place as the 12-tonne fire engine had turned out of Carnarvon Road and into Station Road with its blue lights and flashing headlights on.

It collided head-on with the moped and firefighters carried out first aid on the rider - who has not been named - until a paramedic and ambulance arrived.

Another fire engine was sent to the original emergency call, but arrived to discover there had never been a blaze.

Essex Police and the fire service are investigating both the hoax call and the accident and the fire engine and moped have been impounded as part of the inquiry.

A recording was made of the 999 call and efforts are being made to trace the male caller and the mobile phone he used to make the call.

Mr Dilley said the fire engine would have been travelling at less than the 30mph speed limit at the time of collision and the firefighter driving the appliance was an experienced driver.

He added the driver had been subject to a routine breathalyser test after the accident and sent home. Mr Dilley stressed he had not been suspended or arrested, and had been "very, very shaken" after the crash.

He added there are few accidents involving fire engines responding to calls. "We don't rush red lights anymore. We stop at red lights and proceed if it's safe to do so. Most of our accidents occur whilst manoeuvring in the station yard," said Mr Dilley.

Stanway traffic police appealed for any witnesses to the crash to contact 01206 762512.


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