Man steals EM fire truck, nearly crashes into Mississippi

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HAMPTON, Ill. (KWQC) -- One of East Moline's newest fire trucks suffered heavy damage after a man almost drove it into the Mississippi. Police say Nathan Stottler stole the fire truck while its crew was inside an East Moline business doing an inspection.

Hampton resident Sharon Ayers knew something was wrong right away.

"I heard like a crash boom, and I was walking straight this way, looked straight over there and there's a fire engine down facing the water," said Ayers.

She scarcely believed her own eyes.

"Heard a horn go off, and the next thing I know as I'm walking over there, I saw a guy walking out into the Mississippi, and he looked like he was troubled in some way," said Ayers.

She said the 911 dispatcher barely believed her.

"I just need somebody here there's somebody in the water," said Ayers.

The police said Nathan Stottler stole the fire truck while it was parked outside a business in downtown East Moline. The crew was inside conducting an inspection. The truck wasn't on, but it wasn't locked either.

East Moline Police Captain Tom Reagan said, "First time in 24 years that someone has stolen a fire truck."

Police said after Stottler crashed the truck on Hampton's river bank, he jumped in the river to avoid police. They fished him out and took him to the hospital, where police said he awaits a trip to jail.

Hampton Fire Chief Dave Johnson said, "We've had some different calls before, but I really didn't think we'd have one like this."

Johnson said you don't hear a crime like this happening anywhere.

"How could this really be happening, it's something you don't have in any big towns, let alone a smaller town," said Johnson.

Ayers is just glad no one was hurt.

"It was scary and I hated seeing somebody out there like that, cause you don't know, we all go through all kinds of things," said Ayers.

Police don't know why Stottler stole the truck yet. But everyone agreed, no one expected a fire truck to nearly end up in the Mississippi.

"That's a fire engine, they don't face the water," said Stottler.

East Moline's fire chief said they bought the pumper back in 2009 at a cost of $375,000. The chief said it's one of the newest in the fleet. They have a backup truck. City mechanics are checking to see if the pumper can be repaired.