Emergency services assembled to render their assistance at what they believed was the scene of a three-car accident.
Emergency services assembled to render their assistance at what they believed was the scene of a three-car accident. Jacklyn Wagner

Prank caller to pay thousands

A HOAX caller who sent emergency services out to the Border Ranges looking for a phantom car accident will have to pay thousands of dollars to cover the cost of the search when they are caught, police have said.

A call from a public phone at Nimbin sent police, ambulance officers, the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter, and volunteers from the State Emergency Service, Rural Fire Service and other rescue organisations out to the Border Ranges last Monday with claims that a three-car accident had left three people trapped.

Richmond Local Area Command duty officer Inspector Matt Kehoe said this was the third hoax call from Nimbin in the past three weeks and police believed someone within the village was making the calls to get police officers based at Nimbin out of the way.

Insp Kehoe said police were now scouring footage from the village’s network of CCTV cameras as well as pursuing other avenues to find out who wanted police out of the way and why.

“We will be prosecuting them and seeking costs for the resource used (in the deployment and search for the phantom accident),” Insp Kehoe said.

“That’s not just for the police, we will also be contacting volunteer agencies and Westpac Rescue Helicopter to see how much they are out of pocket for having to respond to these hoax calls.

“We expect those costs, once the person has been identified, would be substantial.”

There were no solid figures available yet on the cost of the deployment, but Insp Kehoe said it would likely reach into the many thousands of dollars.

Helicopter general manager Kris Beavis said the cost to the helicopter service alone would have been several thousand dollars.

Mr Beavis said the helicopter had been in the air, looking for the phantom crash, for about 45 minutes and during that time it was not available to respond to genuine emergencies.

He appealed to the hoax caller’s self interest, saying they could be putting their own family at risk if something happened to them while the helicopter was responding to their hoax call.

Insp Kehoe said the call not only called away Nimbin police, who might have been needed if something had happened in the village while they were running out to the Border Ranges and back, but it also took Kyogle’s SES crew out of that town and Hanging Rock’s Rural Fire Service unit out of its community.

In the case of the SES and Fire Service responses, as well as the responses from other volunteer groups, they would also have involved volunteers having to leave their jobs for the afternoon – just so someone could get police out of Nimbin for a short time.

A spokeswoman for NSW Police said the triple-0 service received between 2500 and 3000 calls each day, about 10 per cent of which were not genuine.

Anyone with information on the Nimbin hoax caller or callers should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or Nimbin police on 6689 1244.

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