Rubberneckers run into fire truck

By Kristin Edge

Did you hear the story about the volunteer firefighters who chased a car in a fire truck after the emergency vehicle was sideswiped and the offenders drove off?

It's a true story and happened on State Highway 1 near Whangarei.

It all began, according to Ruakaka Fire Brigade station officer Jeff D'Ath, when the brigade was called to a suspected house fire in Totara Rd last Friday about 8.30pm.

The crew, plus another from Portland and Marsden Point Refinery, responded to the emergency call in the Oakleigh area.

Mr D'Ath said the crews drove along the road but could not find any fire and gathered on the side of the state highway to discuss their next move. "There were three fire appliances and a fire service ute all with the lights on while we considered the situation," Mr D'Ath said.

"As a driver came past they were so busy rubbernecking at us the next thing they had hit the side of the appliance and smashed off their side mirror ... and they just kept going."

Mr D'Ath said a few of the volunteers jumped in a fire truck and followed the car north along the road for about 500 metres until the driver pulled over.

A woman got out of the driver's seat and was very apologetic.

She said she was intending to stop but had to find a suitable place on the side of the road.

It turned out she was a 25-year-old tourist from Spain and had just arrived in New Zealand with her partner, who was in the passenger's seat.

Mr D'Ath said it highlighted the dangers of rubbernecking and the story could have had a tragic end if a volunteer had been climbing out of the fire truck cab at the time.

"Emergency services workers are moving around the scene of a car crash ... in and out of fire, ambulance and police vehicles.

"Drivers need to be mindful and focus on the road, not the flashing lights.

"It is also made more dangerous at night."

As it turned out, a neighbour had reported a house fire when in fact it was a controlled rubbish fire near a house.


- Northern Advocate

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