Okay, so here are three summaries of news stories. They all begin with a fire and have the same outcome following from the events described, but two are fake and one is actually real.
(1) Mother and baby die in blaze
A Somerset mum and her six-month old baby died in a fire in a third-floor flat after emergency services were delayed by cows in a field. The driver of the fire truck has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter by negligence after it transpired that he did not make use his siren or emergency lights. He says he was afraid these may have caused distress to the animals.
(2) Family killed by speeding fire engine
A Somerset family of four was killed when a fire truck collided with their car at a busy intersection. The emergency services vehicle had previously been delayed by cows and was apparently “trying to make up for lost time”. The driver of the fire engine has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter by negligence.
(3) Spooked cows kill farmer
A Somerset farmer died after being trampled by his cows. It is thought the cows were alarmed by the siren and flashing lights of a fire engine responding to an emergency call. The driver of the fire engine has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter by negligence.
Well, here is the answer. No peeking.
It goes without saying that – since one of these stories is true – there was a real tragedy, which is obviously awful. Also, a fire fighter has been arrested and held responsible, which is a grim way to end a day one started by doing a job of work for the benefit of one’s fellow citizens.
But tragedy, I feel, should not be followed by farce.
Frequently – one is reminded – the reverse is true: farce is followed by tragedy.
Take this appalling story in The Times: A badly injured woman is left to die down a shaft after rescuers arrive because the available hoist is only certified to carry firemen – not “members of the public”. The same “heath and safety” regulations lead firemen to refuse to assist a paramedic who volunteered to be lowered down to attend to the woman. They all listened to her moans grow weaker over a six hour period, until it was too late.