Larne man who stole fire engine admits leaving £1.5m 'trail of destruction'

Ross Clarke. Picture by Pacemaker Press

A CO Antrim man who caused an estimated £1.5m damage when he got behind the wheel of a fire engine appeared in court today where he admitted a catalogue of offending including criminal damage and motoring offences.

During his drive of destruction in the early hours of March 5 last year, Larne man Ross Clarke not only crashed into the fire station wall, and six terraced homes, but also careered into seven parked cars and a lorry.

The vehicles were strewn across the road - one flipped on to its roof - with the fire engine, its blue emergency lights still flashing, finally coming to a halt in the front garden of one of the houses in Larne's Glenarm Road.

Residents were met with a startling scene when they were awoken around 4.30am by the crashing appliance, previously described by one lawyer like a trailer for the next Hangover movie.

The 20-year-old, who had never driven before, pleaded guilty to a total of 21 charges, including the aggravated taking of the fire engine and to causing damage to the Agnew Street station.

Clarke, originally of Fairway in Larne, but now with an address in Rathcoole, Newtownabbey, also admitted causing criminal damage to the six houses, a shop doorway, nine vehicle, including the fire engine, attempted burglary, dangerous driving, driving without insurance, and failing either to report, stop, or remain at the scene of an accident.

Antrim Crown Court Judge Paul Ramsey QC said he would review the case next month and set a possible date for his sentencing.

Defence barrister Neil Moore told an earlier court hearing that Clarke has a "severe learning disability", and also revealed that he had never driven a vehicle before which may account for the damage to Larne Fire Station as he attempted to reverse back into the depot.

The same court also heard claims that at one stage Clarke did not go down a particular street because it was one-way and on another occasion he even stopped the fire engine at a set of red traffic lights.


Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: