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'Cocky' 4x4 driver gets into deep water

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 14, 2013


A 4x4 driver who sparked a £10,000 rescue operation after he ignored warnings and drove into a flooded river escaped with an £80 fine.

Police say the "cocky" 22-year-old was trying to impress a friend travelling with him when he plunged his Mitsubishi Pajero into the 4ft deep water.

The off-road motor was picked up and swept 60 metres downstream and the panic-stricken pair dialled 999.

Two helicopters, two fire engines, two ambulances and a dozen emergency workers were scrambled – at a cost of around £10,000.

Police slapped the unnamed driver with an £80 penalty notice for wasting police time – and the owner faces a further bill to recover his car which was left stranded in the River Mole in Umberleigh, Devon.

The drama happened on Sunday, when the driver ignored an Unsuitable For Motors sign as he drove down a narrow country lane.

A police helicopter – costing £1,675 an hour – was dispatched together with a Royal Navy search and rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall. The fire brigade sent two crews from nearby Chulmleigh and South Molton plus a specialist rescue team from Barnstaple – a total cost of up to £3,000.

Despite the huge array of rescue apparatus involved one man managed to get out of the car and wade to safety himself. Firefighters reached his friend with an inflatable dinghy as he sat perched on the bonnet.

The RNAS helicopter was stood down before it reached the scene but with several ambulances on the scene together with a police car and officers the total bill approached £10,000.

A police spokesman said: "No fine would ever claw back the immense cost of this operation. I am sure that the two men involved have learned their lesson."

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