AN undertaker and a hearse driver sprang into action after a stolen car brought chaos to a funeral cortege.
The blue Vauxhall Vectra shot out of a side street and ploughed into a black stretch limousine which was part of a funeral procession on its way to Huddersfield Crematorium.
The Vectra smashed into the front of the Volvo limo, spun around and then careered into the front of the Shama Balti restaurant on Bradford Road in Fartown at 11am yesterday.
The entire doorway was destroyed by the impact and the stolen S-registered car was wrecked.
Funeral director Clive Pearson who was in the hearse and its driver – Clive’s father-in-law Eric Bailey, 60, – spotted two men fleeing from the car.
They immediately chased after, caught and held them until police arrived minutes later.
Mr Pearson, 30, is married to Mr Bailey’s daughter, Leanne, and they live in Marsden.
He has run Pearson Funeral Service, based in the village, for five years.
He said: “I saw the blue car flash across the road behind us and there were a couple of loud bangs as it hit the limousine and then the restaurant.
“I jumped out and ran towards the limo and saw the two men getting out of the other car and try to run away. One of them was limping. I grabbed one and Eric got the other.”
A third man remained in the wrecked car which had been stolen from Netherton on Saturday.
The cortege was for 96-year-old Horace Fisher, who was best known as a chairman of the former Meltham Urban District Council.
He lived in Meltham and was twice chairman of the village’s council, first in 1964/65 and again in 1970/71.
His family were too distressed yesterday to talk about the crash.
Eyewitness Paul Conroy, 32, of Fartown, said: “I heard one bang quickly followed by another and then two men got out of the car, but were quickly detained.
“It’s unbelievable this happened to a funeral car – as if it wasn’t a bad enough day already for the family.’’
Shama Balti owner Mohammed Tariq got an automatic alert on his mobile phone that the restaurant’s alarm had gone off.
He asked a friend who has a key to go and check it, but he found total devastation with the doorway totally gone.
Mr Tariq, 42, came over from his Bradford home to sort out the damage before the restaurant opened yesterday teatime.
He said the doorway was the original one from the building’s days as the Regent Cinema.
“It will all need replacing, but we managed to get that done before the first customers arrived,’’ he said.
Insp Mick Rollinson from Huddersfield Police said all three men were arrested on suspicion of aggravated vehicle-taking.
A 30-year-old man was released on police bail. He was the back seat passenger who had remained in the car.
Two other men aged 34 and 27 were detained in custody overnight for further questioning.
“The two people who detained the suspects did a marvellous job,’’ he said. “I’ve never known a funeral procession to be affected in this way before. It was one of the most amazing incidents I’ve ever had to deal with.
“There were four mourners in the limousine and they got into the other limousine and another car and carried on to the crematorium. They all showed true grit to continue.’’
The funeral went ahead at the crematorium just 15 minutes late.