By Kevin Deutsch
A female EMT trainee working for an ambulance service survived a frightening encounter with a car thief who stole the emergency vehicle while she was eating her lunch in the back, according to newly released court records.
The trainee, working with Miami-based National Health Transport, was alone and eating in the ambulance on June 2 around 1 p.m. when Ciara McGriff, 25, of Fort Lauderdale, jumped into the driver’s seat outside HCA Woodmont Hospital and sped the ambulance onto North University Drive, according to an arrest affidavit.
The trainee felt the vehicle speeding through traffic and “didn’t know what was going on.”
“She then looked at the driver of the vehicle and immediately recognized that the driver was not part of the ambulance crew and should not be in the vehicle,” Broward Sheriff’s Office Tamarac District deputies wrote in their report.
McGriff told the trainee she was scared for her life and needed help “but did not want to hold her hostage…and wanted to go to the closest police station,” records show.
The victim begged McGriff to let her out of the ambulance, making the request more than five times before she could finally jump out at North University Drive and McNab Road, deputies wrote.
McGriff kept on driving and caused a hit-and-run crash at Pine Island Road and McNab Road in Tamarac, deputies said.
A short time later, the stolen ambulance was involved in a single-vehicle crash in Sunrise in the 4000 block of Hiatus Road, authorities said.
Shortly after the collision, McGriff jumped out of the moving ambulance and rolled on the ground as the vehicle struck a tree, records show.
A witness watched her get up, stumble and fall to the ground, according to the affidavit. She was arrested and hospitalized for her injuries.
As the car theft played out, a dispatcher for National Health Transport received a call that the ambulance was driving erratically in traffic with its door open, records show.
When the dispatcher reached out to the assigned ambulance crew, they “advised her that they didn’t know the ambulance was missing” and that their trainee was still inside, according to the affidavit.
McGriff was charged with grand theft of an emergency law enforcement vehicle, false imprisonment, leaving the scene of an accident with property damage, careless driving, and driving with a suspended license, records show.
Authorities said McGriff’s previous arrest history includes grand theft auto charges, dealing in stolen property, felony battery, and burglary.
She was being held at the North Broward Bureau Jail Friday on a $17,000 bond, records show.
- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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