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A man in Northern Ireland who tried to set fire to a stolen forklift accidentally ignited himself, police said. Closed circuit surveillance cameras show that his accomplices apparently were able to extinguish the flames but the thief is still at large.
The incident occurred around 3 a.m. October 23 at a Topaz gas station in Portadown, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, according to the BBC. Surveillance footage show a man driving a Manitou telescopic telehandler forklift at a high rate of speed toward an Automated Teller Machine bolted to the ground. The forklift had been reported stolen the previous day from a nearby construction site.
Watch the Incident Unfold
Here’s a link to the video:
The driver of the forklift attempted to ram the ATM machine several times, causing extensive damage to it and bending the forks of the vehicle. But he apparently was not able to break into where the cash was held.
A few moments later, cameras showed a white van being driven by an accomplice speed next to the forklift, where the operator abandoned the vehicle and began climbing into the van.
Apparently having second thoughts about leaving the forklift behind, the man then exits the van and returns to the forklift, where he apparently uses an accellerant to set the vehicle on fire. There’s a short burst of flame then the man apparently adds more accellerant, resulting in a larger fireball that catches the man on fire.
The man apparently jumps into the van and the van speeds off.
Police Ask for the Public’s Help
Detective Inspector Jill Duffie said police released the closed circuit surveillance footage in the hopes that someone would recognize the thieves and turn them in.
“We are releasing this CCTV footage as part of our investigation to identify either the men involved or the white transit van,” Duffie said. “We believe one of the males may have sustained burn injuries during this incident which required medical treatment.”
The gas station’s owner, Philip Woods, said it was fortunate that the entire gas station didn’t explode.
“It was scary,” Woods said. “We are a petrol forecourt and we are pumping fuel 24 hours and if the wind had blown in the wrong direction, if there had been somebody on the site, who knows what might have happened.”
Police said the flaming thief may have sustained serious burn injuries, but may not have sought medical treatment at area hospitals for fear of being turned in to police.
‘Smash and Dash’ on the Rise
“Smash and dash” ATM thefts involving stolen forklifts are becoming increasingly common. Last January, a forklift was used to steal an ATM at the Bank of America facility in Miramar, Florida, which is about 23 miles northwest of Miami.
In that incident, thieves also used a forklift that had been stolen from nearby construction site. They then drove the forklift to the bank, where they used it to hoist the entire ATM machine out of the ground and load it into a waiting panel truck, which itself had been stolen from a medical equipment company in nearby Hialeah.
ATMs an Appealing Target for Thieves
Despite their weight — outdoor ATMs like the one stolen in Miramar can weigh more than 2,500 pounds — ATMs make an appealing target for thieves. They can contain $5,000 or more in cash and are often left unguarded during overnight hours.
Smash and Dash crimes are especially popular in areas where there is a boom in housing — meaning a lot of construction sites containing unattended forklifts and drive-through banks with outdoor ATMs.
At the height of the 2006 housing boom in Phoenix, Arizona, for example, there were 21 attempted thefts of ATMs using forklifts. And it’s not just a US phenomenon. Smash and Dash crimes also have been reported in Canada, New Zealand, Estonia, Scotland and Indonesia.