A man swerved a dump truck through East German police gunfire early Friday and escaped through the Berlin Wall as his girlfriend and their baby huddled on the floor, West Berlin police said.
None of the three was hurt.
“We’re overjoyed!” West Germany’s ARD television network quoted the woman as exclaiming.
The man, who worked for an East German construction company, told Western Allied officials questioning him that he and his girlfriend were dissatisfied with conditions in East Berlin.
The escape, under floodlights at heavily guarded Checkpoint Charlie, took five or 10 seconds and was one of the most spectacular in years.
Loaded With Gravel
The 7 1/2-ton dump truck, loaded with gravel, roared through at least two barriers at 12:05 a.m. and rammed a steel gate.
U.S. military police followed the driver after he raced into the West. He didn’t stop until he was more than half a mile past the wall.
West Berlin police said East German guards fired at least three shots, and the front of the truck was a wreck from barrier-bashing. In its wake was a pile of broken windshield glass and twisted metal barriers.
Police said the driver swerved into oncoming traffic when an automatic barrier descended in front of him, but dodged cars heading into East Berlin.
Police said the man, 32, the woman, 26, and the 8-month-old baby were living in East Berlin. Police did not release their names.
Erasing the Damage
Throughout the day Friday, East German guards worked to erase signs of damage at the checkpoint, a main wall crossing between Communist East Berlin and West Berlin.
Friday’s escape came three days after gunfire by East German guards stopped a young man from fleeing over the wall to West Berlin. He was arrested.
Seventy-four people have died trying to escape across the Berlin Wall since it was put up on Aug. 13, 1961. More than 4,900 people have succeeded, although most escapes occurred in the 1960s, before defenses were improved.
Details of the Checkpoint Charlie escape were still being pieced together late Friday.
Allied and West Berlin authorities questioned the couple, then took them and the infant to a refugee center in West Berlin, according to The Aug. 13 Working Group, a private organization that monitors Berlin Wall escapes.
The escapees will be allowed to stay in West Germany, under longstanding West German practice.