A granddad being rushed to hospital with a devastating blood clot that nearly cost him his leg was left stunned when his ambulance pulled over - to pick up hitchhikers.
Glenn Buscombe, 60, was writhing in pain in the back of the emergency vehicle when it stopped abruptly on the side of a dual carriageway in the early hours of the morning.
To his amazement the door slid open and a woman in a skimpy skirt climbed inside while her boyfriend hopped onto the front seat.
The driver then gave the pair a lift to the next town before dropping them off and taking Glenn to A&E in Plymouth, Devon.
The retired carpenter was told by doctors at the city's Derriford Hospital he might have to have his right leg amputated because of a deep vain thrombosis.
But after being transferred to another specialist hospital unit medics restored his blood flow with a series of injections.
Grandfather-of-three Glenn is now recovering at home in Polperro, Cornwall from an operation to repair his blocked artery.
He has complained to the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust who have launched an urgent investigation into the incident on April 6.
Glenn's ordeal began when his leg started swelling up and his doctor called for an ambulance to take him to hospital.
Two paramedics arrived approximately 45 minutes later and helped him into a seat in the back of their vehicle.
They set off along the A38 dual carriageway towards Plymouth driving at speed but without the blue lights flashing.
Glenn, who has three grown up sons with his wife Sandra, said: "I was in terrible pain. The leg was swollen and my toes were starting to go black.
"We were going at quite a speed when the ambulance came to an abrupt stop. It was not quite an emergency stop but enough to make my seatbelt lock.
"All of a sudden the door slid open and there was a girl standing there in the roadside.
"She looked a bit worse for wear and bedraggled. She was just wearing a skirt and a blouse despite the fact it was foggy and raining on and off.
"Then a man got in the front seat. He only had on a t-shirt. They looked like they'd had a few beers and missed their lift back home.
"The woman started asking me all sorts of questions - who I was, what was wrong with me. I said 'how the hell do I know, I haven't been to hospital yet'.
"I couldn't believe what was going on. The paramedic in the back with me looked as confused as I was."
Glenn says the ambulance carried on driving before it reached Saltash on the Devon-Cornwall border and pulled over again, where the two hitchhikers jumped out at a garage.
When it finally reached Derriford Glenn was checked over and put into the back of another ambulance, which took him to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro to see specialists.
To his relief, doctors there said his leg could be treated with injections rather than having to be amputated.
He was allowed home the next day but had to return to have an angioplasty and stent inserted into his leg.
Glenn said: "The bloodclot was in the main artery above the knee. The pieces can break away, travel towards the heart and kill you in a split second.
"It was a race against time to save me and my leg and yet the driver was messing around giving people lifts - it's just not on.
"If he was worried about these people he could have called the police. The girl didn't even say goodbye or thanks when she got out.
"There are a lot of valuable drugs in the back of an ambulance and for all he knew these two could have been armed with a knife or something.
"I have the utmost respect for the job the ambulance people do and the care I received from the doctors and nurses at the Royal Cornwall Hospital was exemplary.
"I wouldn't want anyone to lose their jobs over this but it cannot be allowed to happen again."
It is believed the ambulance may have stopped because the crew thought the couple had been in a road traffic accident - or may have been at risk because of the bad weather.
However an ambulance service spokesman said details would not be disclosed until the probe was completed.
He said: "The Trust has received a complaint from Mr Buscombe relating to a routine transfer from his home address to Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, in the early hours of Sunday, April 6th.
"The Trust takes all complaints seriously and has started an investigation to establish exactly what happened during the transfer.
"Once this investigation has completed we will be writing to Mr Buscombe again to inform him of our findings and the outcome of the investigation."