Prankster's shout quite the surprise

By Peter de Graaf

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A firefighter is decontaminated after a suspicious powder was found at Whangarei Fire Station. It turned out the powder was a crushed biscuit. Photo / John Stone
A firefighter is decontaminated after a suspicious powder was found at Whangarei Fire Station. It turned out the powder was a crushed biscuit. Photo / John Stone

Nearly 10 years after a prank gone wrong sparked a contamination scare and shut down a fire station, the culprit can be revealed: Kaeo fire chief and notorious practical joker Lindsay Murray.

During last week's presentation of Mr Murray's 50-year Gold Star for five decades of volunteer service it was left to senior station officer Les Jackson to recount his chief's most infamous joke, played in 2007 when he was still employed as a fire investigator.

Tradition at the time dictated that if a photo of one of the investigators ended up in the paper he had to shout the others morning tea. On one occasion Mr Lindsay had no time to head down to Whangarei to put on the morning tea so he popped a water biscuit into an envelope and posted it to the city's fire station with a note saying: "I hope you can share this".

However, by the time the letter had been through the postal system the biscuit had been reduced to a white powder.

The country had just experienced a series of white powder scares so the mystery envelope triggered a major security alert. The unimpressed receptionist had to go through a cold decontamination shower, Whangarei Fire Station was evacuated and the powder was rushed to the airport at Onerahi to be flown to Wellington for analysis.

Mr Jackson said Air New Zealand wouldn't touch it so Fire Service personnel were preparing to drive the sample to Wellington when Mr Murray realised the cause of the drama and confessed. His bosses were not amused but he managed to keep his job.

"He was pretty embarrassed when he told me the story, but I thought: 'Bloody legend'," Mr Jackson said.

Mr Murray said the sad part of the biscuit saga was that his then colleagues Mike Lister and Craig Bain never got their morning tea. To make up for it he presented them on Saturday night with a replacement crushed biscuit.

Mr Murray was also presented with a packet of water biscuits in memory of the prank "that got a bit out of hand".

- Northern Advocate

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