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Man steals D.C. ambulance

Saturday - 7/27/2013, 4:25pm  ET

WASHINGTON - The District briefly lost yet another ambulance Saturday morning but not to air conditioning malfunctions or maintenance problems but to the hands of a thief.

D.C. Fire and EMS says a patient climbed into the cab of ambulance No. 6 and drove the vehicle away about 9:30 a.m.

The patient, who was thought to be under the influence of a narcotic, was being transported to the hospital when the ambulance was involved in a minor crash with another vehicle at the corner of 2nd Street and Florida Avenue NE, according to fire officials.

A second ambulance was called to continue taking the patient to the hospital. While the two ambulance crews were talking, the patient got behind the wheel and drove off, the department says.

D.C. police immediately followed the run-away ambulance and took the man into custody, the fire department says.

Police identified the patient as Darren Ethedge, 31 of Northeast. He will be charged with felony auto theft upon his release from the hospital, a police spokesman says.

The getaway attempt comes on the heels of a June 24 order from Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe that "all D.C. Fire and EMS apparatus and vehicles that are parked or standing in public areas shall not be let running unattended."

The fire department says a personnel investigation is underway and that the staff involved could be disciplined.

The fire department continues to face scrutiny over the availability and reliability of its ambulances. Earlier this week, the District announced it would contract with a vendor to provide additional ambulances at Nationals Park and the Verizon Center after faulty air conditioning forced the department to pull ambulances out of service.

Last month, the District Council blasted a plan that would have increased the number of ambulances available during the day saying the fire department doesn't have the resources to implement the plan.

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WTOP's Amanda Iacone contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter.

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