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Emu and chef help stop driver fleeing crash site

A portrait of an emu. (Not the emu that helped catch the driver.) (iStock)

LONDON — England has two new, unexpected celebrities — a 42-year-old chef and a massive emu, who inadvertently teamed up to help catch a driver who fled a crash scene after narrowly missing pedestrians and causing extensive damage.

Dean Wade said he heard a loud “screeching noise” near his workplace in Wiltshire, southwest England, on Monday and raced out to see a jeep careening before smashing into the front of an empty shop.

We asked Emmanuel the TikTok-interrupting emu about his sudden fame

In an interview with The Washington Post on Wednesday, Wade, who has been working at the Old Bell Hotel in Malmesbury for only two weeks, said he could see the driver, who “appeared drunk,” was getting ready to back away from the scene. A female passenger had left the vehicle.

“There’s no way you’re going anywhere,” Wade told the man, who he said was “swaying” and “staggering” all over the place. He said the man was determined to escape, heading off on foot, though unable to run fast due to his physical state.

Wearing his slip-resistant rubber kitchen clogs and chef’s overalls, Wade chased the driver for 15 to 20 minutes, through bushes, allotments and gardens before the pair ended up at an animal sanctuary.

This was when the real confrontation began.

“I could see this massive emu,” Wade said. “I’m six foot tall and it was bigger than me.”

Wade said he could tell the bird, which was surrounded by its offspring, was likely to spring into defense if anyone intruded its enclosure.

“Mate, don’t go in there,” Wade warned the man, who he said ignored his advice, replying: “I can fight emus” before heading into the animal’s pen — where he was repeatedly pecked.

“It was stabbing his body all over,” Wade said, causing the man to curse and unsuccessfully attempt to “kung-fu-kick” the animal away.

The bird kept stabbing at the driver, who eventually gave up, fled the pen and headed toward a river — while Wade took the opportunity to flag down a nearby police car.

Wiltshire police confirmed Monday they were dealing with a “minor injury” and “extensive damage” following the collision that forced the road to close as emergency services attended the scene.

Following “an extensive search of the area,” officials said, one person had been arrested after driving drunk. They did not name a suspect.

Wade told The Post that he had just relocated from the sprawling city of Leeds to the picturesque village of Malmesbury for his new job at the Old Bell Hotel, which claims to be England’s oldest hotel. According to its website, the venue has served travelers since 1220.

“In Leeds, we don’t stand by and do nothing,” Wade said, crediting his home city of West Yorkshire and his passion for justice for providing him with the instinct to chase the driver.

Emus are classified as one of the world’s biggest birds, according to National Geographic. The animals can weigh up to 97 pounds and grow over six feet tall. While they cannot fly, they have “long, powerful legs” that they often use to kick predators that come too close.

Wade was keen to stress that he did not consider the birds aggressive but, rather, “curious creatures” that are determined to protect their young.

“I know what female birds are like,” he said, adding that he has encountered angry swans seeking to protect their chicks.

Wade admitted his new life and job in Malmesbury had so far surpassed all expectations: uniting with an emu to solve crime; being invited to appear on national radio and TV in the U.K.; and fielding interview requests while on a roadside attempting to fix a punctured tire, although that incident is not believed to be bird related.

The emu, despite its newfound fame, has retained a lower profile, with the wildlife sanctuary declining interviews but telling national broadcaster BBC that all its emus were unharmed and that they are “wonderful creatures.”

Following Wade and the emu’s successful partnership, the hotel and the animal sanctuary have also teamed up — striking a deal that sees staff deliver bucket loads of vegetable peelings from the kitchen to the animals each day in a bid to reduce food waste.