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Controversy Ignites in NY as Underage EMT Takes Ambulance to Transport Child in Need

Ellenville, New York EMT Stephen Sawyer was alone at the firehouse on December 11th. At 20-years-old, he wasn’t allowed to drive the ambulance — which requires being at least 21.

But, when a paramedic on the scene repeatedly called for an ambulance to get a 4-year-old suffering seizures to the hospital with no immediate help on the way, Sawyer took matters into his own hands and drove the ambulance to the scene, the Record Online reported. The medic had responded to the scene in his POV.

Over a 15-minute period, multiple ambulances were asked to respond to the scene, but none were available. Sawyer drove to the scene, picked up the patient and medic and transported them to a local hospital.

The Ellenville First Aid and Rescue Squad’s board suspended Sawyer after an investigation and he subsequently resigned.

While the rules of the department clearly were in place requiring drivers to be 21, Sawyer admitted he broke the rules but told local media he was an ambulance driver for a private ambulance company and had experience to handle the situation.

The paper said the board’s decision was to suspend Sawyer — and remove his role as Youth Squad advisor.

In the 48 hours since the story went public, it’s gone around the Web with opinions on both sides of the story – going against the rules to help a child in need vs. respecting the rules of an organization. What if he was only 18? 19? What if the ambulance had gotten into an accident enroute? What if no ambulance had responded and the child’s condition worsened? At what point would the paramedic or parents have taken the child to the hospital in a personal vehicle? It’s a pretty endless list of “what ifs”, most of which can’t be known.

What do you think? Comment below. Read the full story in the Record here.

Gavaris reiterated the department’s age policy, reporting that it is similar to other departments in the same county, adding that the squad’s ambulances are bigger than those used by private ambulance companies. He told the Record that the suspension was the result of a “culmination” of policy and bylaw violations, not just the Dec. 11 incident.

For his side, Sawyer told the Record that he hopes the “the guys and girls on the board” rethink the policy.

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