The driver of a Dallas ambulance displays hand signs after stealing the vehicle. Screenshot of NBCDFW video.
Rescue 53 rides again.
When firefighters at Dallas Fire-Rescue Station 53 checked their vehicle bay at some point Monday afternoon, they discovered one of their ambulances — a rig known as Rescue 53 — was missing.
Jason Evans, DFR public information officer, confirmed to Coffee or Die Magazine that this was the second time Rescue 53 has been stolen from its firehouse — both times resulting in a high-speed police chase after the ambulance — and described how it happened.
This is the **second** time this specific ambulance has been stolen pic.twitter.com/Ol6aN8ek3X
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) April 5, 2021
“With the units being in the station, most of the time they’re actually open for you to get into in the case of an emergency,” Evans said. “The thing that’s happening, in either case, is that the apparatus bay doors are being left up. People are simply just walking in through the bay door. Which is the case in this one and the one last year.”
Rescue 53 first disappeared more than a year ago, during the Super Bowl Feb. 2, 2020. Medics were dispatched to a 911 call only to discover Rescue 53 had been stolen from the station by a 19-year-old woman who drove the ambulance nearly 200 miles to Bossier City, Louisiana.
Monday’s joyrider didn’t get nearly as far.
DFR personnel immediately activated tracking devices and other means of locating the ambulance while reporting to law enforcement that Rescue 53 was on the run again. A statement from DFR said the ambulance disappeared around 12:30 p.m. and was picked up by police soon after.
Over the next hour, the driver took Rescue 53 on- and off-roading, bypassing law enforcement several times. The ambulance drove up shoulders and even briefly went the wrong direction down a road. Though the opportunity to bump or otherwise impact the ambulance appeared to be available, several police vehicles appeared to steer clear of the chance. Monday’s chase included the Dallas Police Department, the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, and the Texas Highway Patrol.
Unlike the trip to Louisiana, yesterday’s pursuit ended roughly for Rescue 53, as it bottomed out in a bumpy lot in McKinney, Texas, about 30 miles outside Dallas. The driver exited and ran on foot while being hindered by his falling pants before he was eventually tackled by a group of officers. Pictures released by the DFR showed extensive damage to the wheels on the driver’s side.
Evans said the man did not get into any medical supplies or medications in the ambulance’s main compartment because the ambulance’s front and back compartments cannot be accessed one from the other. To reach supplies, the man would have had to enter the rear compartment, which he never did.
Fire and rescue vehicles are stolen somewhat regularly across the country and almost always quickly recovered. Just since April 1, fire trucks or ambulances have been taken for joyrides in Colorado, Florida, and California.
The thefts are nearly always an impromptu crime of opportunity, since emergency vehicles are usually stored with keys in the vehicle or are kept running at the site of calls, often unattended for extended periods.
But the same ambulance disappearing twice is notable.
“It’s kind of like we did last year,” Evans said. “About the best we can do [is] make all of our members aware of the situation [and] make sure we’re safeguarding against the theft of our equipment by cutting off the access to the general public unless it’s through the front door, knocking, and we know they’re there.”
Matt White is a former senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism.
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