'Mad' driver faces £16,000 bill over car on canal stunt

A "MAD" driver who crashed his car through ice after driving along a frozen canal has been slammed for putting the lives of firefighters at risk and could now face a huge bill.

Police described the incident as "utter madness" at the time, while Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service called it "a very reckless act".

Andrew Nisbet, 25, is now facing financial ruin as a result of the crazy stunt, Livingston Sheriff Court was told, as British Waterways Board has sued him for the 16,000 it cost to hire a crane to recover his Peugeot from the icy water.

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When he appeared for sentence yesterday Nisbet, of South Queensferry, was sentenced to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work in the community.

A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue welcomed the sentence, and said that while it did not plan to pursue Mr Nisbet for the estimated 5000 bill for attending the incident, his actions were reckless and dangerous.

"There was a concern that someone may have been trapped in the car, so firefighters had to risk their own lives going out to check," she said.

"It was a long and dangerous procedure that tied up a lot of resources, including rescue appliances and thermal imaging equipment, all of which could have been prevented had Mr Nisbet stayed at the scene and informed emergency services there was no-one inside.

"His actions were foolish, reckless and dangerous."

Nisbet pleaded guilty to culpable and reckless criminal conduct by driving on to the Union Canal on January 11 this year.

Paul Beaton, prosecuting, said the emergency services had received calls from members of the public about a car with two people inside being driven on the frozen canal. When police arrived at the scene they saw the rear end of the vehicle protruding from the ice and feared the driver and passenger were trapped inside.

A major incident response was launched involving the fire service's water rescue team.

While police searched the canal bank in freezing conditions, fire officers used an inflatable bridge to reach the car and check it was empty.

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Nisbet was traced as the registered keeper of the car and police went to an address he was known to frequent. They were let in by his friend James Naismith, who confessed to being the passenger.

Police managed to contact Nisbet later that day and he admitted driving on the ice and his car falling through the ice. He added: "I'll try my best to get it recovered."

Mr Beaton said: "Despite what the accused said, he didn't do so. It was recovered by British Waterways.This required the hiring of a crane and an environmental clean-up for spillage from the vehicle.

"The cost of this was 16,261.21 and civil proceedings are ongoing in relation to recovery of that money.

"Police described what he did as stupid."

Passing sentence, Sheriff Donald Muirhead told Nisbet: "Police called you stupid and your solicitor called you daft.

"People don't get prosecuted for being stupid or daft. You got prosecuted for having a criminal indifference for doing what you were doing."

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