UPDATE: GA police investigating stolen ambulance
CHATSWORTH, MURRAY COUNTY, GA. (WRCB) -- A Chatsworth woman could face charges for taking an emergency vehicle on a joy ride.
Police say 19-year-old, Melinda Hudson, was a patient at Murray Medical Center when she escaped, found her way to an unlocked ambulance and took off.
The incident has prompted hospital officials to take a hard look at their security practices.
The police report shows when the ambulance was stolen it was parked in an open bay, the doors were unlocked and the keys were inside.
"I have been a pastor for 32 years," says Danny Cochran. "I have never found an abandoned ambulance on church the property before."
Cochran pastors Holly Creek Baptist Church in Chatsworth. He didn't realize the Murray County ambulance was sitting in a ditch next to the church cemetery until police called Monday morning.
"We didn't even know," Cochran says. "We were at the church working, but we didn't look into the woods to see if there was a vehicle there."
Chatsworth police say Hudson stole it the night before. Her father tells Channel 3 his daughter was there for a checkup, not any sort of injury.
"A female patient left the hospital without permission, and made her way to the ambulance bay where the vehicle was parked," says Chatsworth Police Sergeant Michael Parker.
The EMS Center where the ambulance was parked is a short walk across the street from the hospital. Police say after Hudson found her way to the open bay. Getting inside and driving away was the easy part.
"She got into the ambulance, found a key and took the ambulance," says Sgt. Parker.
Hudson drove to the church and got out, but she left the vehicle in neutral.
"It crashed into the trees and came to a rest," says the church pastor.
Hudson walked to the road where she was picked up by police, and taken back to the hospital. She later told a nurse what happened.
Tuesday Murray Medical Center released a statement saying, 'The incident is under internal review as are our security practices regarding off-duty ambulances'.
Cochran says Hudson recently began attending his church, and he's just glad no one was hurt.
The ambulance, including equipment, is valued at $200,000. Chatsworth Police say nothing inside was stolen. Hudson is charged with vehicle theft.
Hospital officials say insurance should cover damage to the front of the ambulance, and a back-up will be used until it is repaired.