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April 19, 2011

Ambulance stolen from southern Indiana hospital

By Denise Saunders

NEW ALBANY, Ind. — For the second time in less than a month, an ambulance was stolen in southern Indiana.

This time, according to New Albany police, the ambulance was taken from a hospital.

The first time, someone stole an ambulance from a restaurant and led police on a high-speed chase.

This time, someone else stole an ambulance from a hospital, just after a patient was dropped off.

About 1 a.m. Saturday, New Albany emergency medical technicians had just arrived at Floyd Memorial Hospital.

Police said Jeremy Wooten jumped inside the ambulance and took off while police were inside the hospital.

"An individual who had been freshly released from the hospital entered a New Albany Fire Department ambulance and took it approximately two blocks to the east-northeast of the Hospital," said New Albany Police Chief Todd Bailey.

Bailey said Wooten was intoxicated and only drove the ambulance a couple of blocks before jumping out.

"Officers drove up on him and at that point in time, he basically gave up," Bailey said.

Wooten faces several felony charges, including auto theft.

This is the second time in three weeks an ambulance has been stolen in southern Indiana.

Last time, police said Larry Loughman stole an Orange County ambulance while EMTs were parked at a fast-food restaurant.

Police said he led them on a high-speed chase through several counties.

In both incidents, police said the keys were left inside. According to New Albany Fire Department officials, it is a common practice to leave the keys in the ignition of an ambulance.

Fire officials said they have done it for years, because no one would ever think someone would steal an ambulance.

Officials said they may have to rethink their policy.

"Obviously, public safety is our most important responsibility. And if somebody who is acting in an irresponsible manner decides to take off with an ambulance or any emergency vehicle, they are putting our public at great risk," Bailey said.

Officials said leaving the keys in the ignition provides a faster emergency run, and turning the engine off may affect the equipment inside.

Also some drugs are kept in the ambulance, but they are locked up.

Reprinted with permission from WLKY.