Boy racer gangs have struck again by stealing canisters of laughing gas from a hospital – to use as ‘rocket fuel’ to boost their high-performance sports cars.
A gang of 10 young men were spotted cutting a hole in the roof of a storage building at Ipswich Hospital, in Suffolk, before grabbing canisters of nitrous oxide.
Thrill-seekers have been blamed for breaking into ambulance stations stealing cylinders of entonox gas which contains nitrous oxide and oxygen.
When inhaled the nitrous oxide gas has a euphoric effect and is increasingly used across the UK as a recreational drug.
It can also used as fuel to boost acceleration and performance of ‘boy racer’ cars producing greater speeds than normal petrol and diesel.
The gang escaped from Ipswich Hospital in the early hours of Friday morning with 14 canisters but abandoned 11 after being disturbed by a hospital porter.
Five cylinders of the gas were stolen in August this year from a storage area at the ambulance station in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
Cylinders have also been stolen from three stations in Newmarket, Haverhill, and Stowmarket, all Suffolk, and stations in Cambridgeshire and Ipswich.
The use of nitrous oxide has been previously highlighted in car chase films such as Mad Max starring Mel Gibson and The Fast And The Furious starring Vin Diesel.
Rob Gale, of Landspeed service centre, in Ipswich, warned using nitrous oxide as rocket fuel can be highly dangerous.
He said: ”You need a nitrous injection system to use it, and these things cost anything between £150 and £600.
”They make cars a lot quicker and can increase the acceleration by up to 200 horsepower.
”They are mainly fitted to Japanese performance vehicles and it is generally the youngsters who want them. We don’t fit many because insurance companies frown upon it.
”You have to mix the gas with the right amount of fuel because it is highly flammable.
”It is not something that should be done unless you are a trained mechanic.”
Jan Rowsell, of Ipswich Hospital, said security has been beefed up since the theft to scare off would-be thieves and burglars.
She said: ”We take security very seriously but if people are determined to get in, they will do whatever it takes including cutting padlocks and forcing their way in.”
The entonox cylinders are flammable and kept locked in secure cages.
The gas, known as ‘laughing gas’, is primarily used by medics as a painkilling anaesthetic.
It has a variety of possible side-effects if used incorrectly, including feeling sick and a serious condition called tension pneumothorax.