PORT ROYAL -- A nude man stole a fire truck while firefighters were answering a medical call Friday afternoon, then raced off, hitting multiple cars and killing a pedestrian before crashing into a tree, authorities and witnesses said.
A man who had been walking with his brother along the sidewalk on Ribaut Road was struck and killed by the man in the stolen Port Royal fire truck, according to investigators. The brother was unharmed, while the pedestrian, whose name was not released Friday, was pronounced dead at the scene, Beaufort County Coroner Ed Allen said.
It all started when firefighters from the Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department were sent at about 4 p.m. to Laurel Hill apartments on Ribaut Road, department spokesman Capt. John Robinson said. While firefighters were tending to the call, a man, who was not identified Friday and who witnesses said was nude, jumped into their fire engine and sped off toward Beaufort, Robinson said.
Brana Rogerson of Lady's Island said she narrowly avoided a collision with the stolen engine, which plowed into six or seven other vehicles at the intersection of Ribaut Road and Lady's Island Drive before zooming away.
"I've never seen a fire truck come out of nowhere like that," Rogerson said. "The truck didn't have its lights on. I knew it wasn't a fireman behind the wheel. It was faster than I've ever seen any fire truck go, and I've seen my fair share of fire trucks."
The collision with the pedestrian appears to have caused the man to lose control of the fire truck. It crashed into a wooded area between a Dollar General store and a nearby bowling alley, authorities said. The crash badly damaged the truck and trapped the man inside, Beaufort Police Deputy Chief Dale McDorman said.
When a Beaufort County paramedic and two Beaufort police officers tried to free the man from the wreckage, the suspect began fighting them, McDorman said.
The man was then subdued, arrested and taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital for treatment of injuries sustained in the crash, McDorman said. The officers and the paramedic also were taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries they suffered during the scuffle.
Upon his release, McDorman said Beaufort police will charge the suspect with two counts of assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest.
Port Royal Police likely will charge him in connection with the theft of the fire truck, and any charges stemming from the numerous collisions the suspect is believed to have caused, McDorman said. The S.C. Highway Patrol would file any charges brought in connection with the pedestrian's death.