Stick shift thwarts thieves FedEx hijacking botched.

Posted: January 09, 2010

In an apparently ill-conceived caper, several men briefly hijacked a FedEx van yesterday afternoon and tried to navigate it through rush-hour traffic in Center City before abandoning the easily recognizable vehicle and fleeing.

The plan - if there was a plan - did not include an accomplice who could drive a manual transmission, police said.

At least two assailants, one with a firearm, seized the van around 4 p.m. at 16th and Pine Streets and attempted to drive it before forcing one of two FedEx employees to operate the stick shift for them, police said. The other employee was able to get away and call for help.

The hijackers bailed out at 11th and Market Streets and possibly fled in a burgundy sedan, police said. The men may have initially emerged from the sedan to take the van and the sedan then followed the van, but investigators were still trying to sort out witness accounts.

No arrests were reported early last night.

Police believe, preliminarily, that nothing was taken. The employees were not injured.

"Our guys are both safe," said FedEx spokesman David Westrick, who thanked police for responding quickly.

Westrick chuckled when he noted that the suspects "had some trouble driving a standard clutch vehicle."

Police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore said he personally speculated about an inside job, but was more inclined to believe that the perpetrators "weren't the brightest thieves."

Contact staff writer Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or bmoran@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writer Allison Steele contributed to this article.

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