COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — A young firefighter is being lauded for his efforts after a 13-year-old boy drove off with one of the Central Coventry Fire District’s new ambulances Thursday night.
Police said they were trying to calm down the boy, who has ADHD and autism, and brought him to the fire station, where they knew he liked to visit.
When they arrived, the boy unexpectedly ran over to and entered the ambulance, locked its doors and started the vehicle, according to police. It was then Scott Brown Jr., a probationary firefighter in the district, jumped through the open passenger side window and tried to grab the key, but the boy placed the ambulance in drive and it took off.
The chief, who has no relation to the young firefighter, said Brown was hanging out of the window until the ambulance hit a parked cruiser and he was thrown onto Route 117.
The ambulance crossed the roadway and was hit by an oncoming motorcycle before it went down an embankment.
The chief said Brown, who was wounded himself, ran to help the injured motorcyclist.
“This young man really went above and beyond last night to stop the rescue without his own care,” Chief Brown said. “Because certainly I think today, and looking back at this and last night, we could be planning funerals here this morning, whether that was the firefighter’s, the police officer’s, the mother, I mean all of these people were in the way of this very, very heavy rescue.”
This is helmet camera footage of the crash released Friday by police. Story continues below video.
Police said the boy, the firefighter and the motorcycle rider all suffered minor injuries and were taken to the hospital for evaluation. Both Brown and the motorcyclist have since been released, according to police.
In a statement Friday, police commended Brown for his efforts and discussed the challenges faced by both parents and first responders in caring for a person with autism.
For all the first responders involved in this incident, it brings into acute focus the challenges that parents, caregivers, and children experience when dealing with autism and other disabilities. It also reminds us of the difficulties our officers and firefighters face when assessing and treating individuals who suffer from mental health disorders. We are grateful that this incident did not result in serious injuries or loss of life. Our thoughts today are with the mother and family of this juvenile who we are struggling with the aftermath of this incident. We commend the dedication and resiliency it requires of parents that wake daily to meet the challenges presented in caring for a child or adult with Autism. #Autismawareness #Autismspeaks
Police said in light of Thursday night’s events, both departments will be evaluating their protocols and procedures. They obtained surveillance video from the station and from the motorcycle rider’s helmet-mounted camera as they continue to investigate.
The fire district has borrowed a rescue from Western Coventry while their ambulance is repaired.