Four emergency ambulance crews from the North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust had lucky escapes after being subjected to what is believed to have been deliberate attacks in the Sunderland area over the last week.
Each crew travelled on blue lights on their way to life-threatening incidents when objects struck their vehicles.
On Friday, 25 June, an emergency ambulance crew travelled along Chester Road in Sunderland at 1.48 pm when an object flew across the vehicle’s front, narrowly missing the windscreen on the driver’s side, obliterating the wing mirror.
Thankfully, no-one was injured, and no patients were in the vehicle at the time.
However, the crew had been responding to an emergency call on blue lights, resulting in a second crew diverting from another emergency to attend in their place.
The vehicle was off the road for several hours whilst it was repaired, costing nearly £300 to repair.
On Tuesday, 29 June, an emergency ambulance crew were travelling on blue lights on the A183 through Penshaw at 1pm when an object struck the windscreen, shattering the glass.
The paramedic, who had been sat in the passenger seat, received minor cuts to his face but did not require hospital treatment.
The vehicle is currently still off the road whilst it awaits repairs, which are estimated to cost nearly £1,500. A second crew, again, had to be diverted to the patient.
On Wednesday, 30 June, an object struck an ambulance whilst transporting a patient on Wembley Road in Witherwack at around 9pm.
Thankfully, the damage was minor and no-one was injured.
At 5.38pm on Thursday, 1 July, an object struck the windscreen of an ambulance travelling on blue lights and sirens along Holborn Road in Sunderland on its way to an emergency.
No damage was caused on this occasion.
Police have launched an investigation into each incident.
The clinical care assistant involved in the second incident, who had been driving the vehicle at the time and would like to remain anonymous at this stage, said: “You just don’t think about someone purposefully going out of their way to harm us.
“It makes you angry; we know how much we were needed by the patient we were travelling to and this has obstructed us from doing that. We were then off the road for several hours in order to fill in statements and swap over the vehicles – we could have responded to at least two more patients in that time.”
Her crew mate paramedic, who also wishes to remain anonymous, added:
“It’s just surreal thinking that someone would do that to any vehicle, let alone an emergency vehicle.
“As well as endangering our lives and the lives of other road users around us, it could have delayed help for the person we were responding to. It’s idiotic behaviour which there’s just no excuse for.”
Vicky Court, deputy chief operating officer at North East Ambulance Service, said:
“It is outrageous to think that someone could choose to deliberately target an emergency vehicle, especially one travelling at speed on blue lights which is clearly responding to a patient in need.
“Thankfully our windscreens are reinforced with protective glass which prevented serious injury, but this could have been a very different story.
“We are supporting all the members of staff involved, who are understandably shaken and angry about was has happened, and we have provided the CCTV from these vehicles to our police colleagues in the hope of gaining successful prosecutions.
“I would urge anyone who may have witnessed any of these incidents to please contact the police immediately to help us bring those responsible to justice.
“We now have two double crewed ambulances off the road that we are unable to use in emergency situations, which is having a significant impact on patient safety.”
Chief Inspector Phil Baker, of Northumbria Police, condemned the incidents and warned those found to have been involved will be dealt with robustly.
Ch Insp Baker said:
“These incidents are concerning and absolutely mindless – they could easily have resulted in serious injury or a fatality.
“We are working with our partners at NEAS to find those responsible for these attacks and are committed to ensuring those individuals are dealt with appropriately.
“We would ask anybody with information that can assist our ongoing investigation to contact police via the ‘Tell Us Something’ page of our website or by calling 101 quoting log 20210629-0417.”
A 48-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage and remains in police custody at this time. He will be interviewed in connection with the spate of offences.
Northumbria Police Commissioner Kim McGuinness added:
“The people behind these terrible attacks are as selfish as they are disgraceful. By targeting these ambulances, they are putting the lives of others at risk.
“Our emergency services have spent the last 15 months going above and beyond to keep us all safe, and I would urge anyone with any information about these attacks to repay that dedication by contacting the police.
“We need to back our emergency services to do the job of keeping us safe, and to show these attackers their actions have consequences.”
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