Northern Ireland

Stolen fire engine: Trail of destruction 'like Hangover movie scene', court hears

The scene of the fire engine crash in Larne
Image caption The stolen fire engine crashed into the front garden of a terraced house

A scene of destruction caused when a stolen fire engine crashed into cars and houses in County Antrim was "like a trail for the next Hangover movie", a court has heard.

The engine was taken from Larne fire station on Saturday morning before crashing at Glenarm Road in the town.

Ballymena Magistrates' Court was told on Thursday the alleged driver was Ross Clarke, of Fairway in Larne.

A defence barrister said Mr Clarke, 19, has a "severe learning disability".

Mr Clarke had never driven a vehicle before and that accounted for the severe damage caused to the fire station when he took the engine, the barrister added.

Drink

Eight cars and five houses were damaged by the fire engine before it was halted when it hit the front of a sixth property.

Mr Clarke is accused of 14 offences.

Image caption Several cars were left badly damaged when they were hit by the fire engine

He faces charges including burglary, aggravated vehicle taking, causing damage and various motoring offences.

Mr Clarke's barrister said his client knew his co-accused, Robert Duffin, because young people went to Mr Duffin's home to drink.

That was where Mr Clarke was on the night of the incident, he added.

Outcry

Mr Duffin, a 66-year-old from Green Link in Larne, faces five charges linked to the incident.

A police officer told the court he believed Mr Clarke was driving the vehicle and that Mr Duffin had a "fascination for blue lights".

He objected to bail for both men, who appeared via videolink from prisons.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Robert Duffin had a "fascination for blue lights", a police officer told the court

The officer said a "public outcry" over reduced fire service cover as a result of the theft of the engine left him with concerns for the defendants' safety if they were bailed.

A defence lawyer for Mr Duffin said the wreckage left in the fire engine's wake resembled a scene from the Hangover film series.

Tagged

Mr Duffin was given bail to live at the Simon Community in Newry, County Down, prompting the judge to say he hoped the city's fire service locked up its engines.

Mr Clarke was given bail to live with a family member in Rathcoole in Newtownabbey, County Antrim.

Both men are banned from entering Larne, contacting each other or any witnesses.

The judge also imposed curfews on the men, who will be electronically tagged and must report to police stations several times a week.

The judge said the details outlined to the court were farcical but serious and he adjourned the case until next month.

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