Fireball runaway drama

TERRIFIED neighbours watched in horror as a burning car hurtled towards a main gas supply on Watermill Drive.

Thursday, 14th October 2004, 4:03 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 11:20 pm

Residents believe the torched Vauxhall could have taken out the whole street if it had not stopped - inches away from a gas box.

Vandals smashed their way into the car at around 9pm on Monday, setting it alight and releasing the handbrake.

Neighbour Sue Steeples said: "My initial fear was any second we're going to blow sky high.

"The car was heading down the drive, burning inside, heading straight for the gas box on the front of next door's house."

Firefighters from Bohemia and the Ridge stations managed to make the vehicle safe before flames could reach the gas supply.

Its teenage owner had spent weeks working on the car to improve it, said a neighbour. The scorched remains have been taken away for forensic tests.

Neighbours were alerted to the drama after hearing the car's alarm.

Luckily the Vauxhall crashed into a hoist at the bottom of the drive, meaning it stopped inches from the property.

Mrs Steeples said: "If it hadn't have been for the hoist five or six houses could have gone up."

Windows were smashed in the attack from the heat of the fire, which also melted guttering on the terraced houses - causing hundreds of pounds damage. Police are treating the incident as arson with intent.

Three people were arrested and later released on bail.

The incident is the latest in a series of attacks on cars in the street - which has left residents living in fear. Gangs of teenagers are often seen jumping on cars, throwing missiles and scratching parked vehicles.

Mrs Steeples' hire car was vandalised last year - causing 600 in damage.

The tyres were slashed, and pink and white paint sprayed over the vehicle.

When officers arrived to deal with another incident of car vandalism on the street, their police car was keyed.

Mrs Steeples said: "It's been 10 years of hell living here, with different generations of kids causing trouble. We are sick of getting platitudes from the police - something needs to be done."

A police spokesman said: "The neighbourhood policing team are working very hard to tackle these problems.

"But it is a community issue and they need the support of everybody."

Sergeant Dick Smith said: "We will keep plugging away at this problem until it is solved.

"The family of one problem youngster is facing eviction proceedings."