CITY OF NEWBURGH NY July 20 2017 —Three New Windsor volunteer emergency medical technicians were assaulted Sunday evening while driving a patient to the hospital, according to an official with the ambulance corps.
Members of the New Windsor Volunteer Ambulance Corps responded to a call to take a woman to St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital for a mental-health evaluation just before 9 p.m.
Rebekah Hemingway had been assaulted and was threatening to hurt herself, according to Michael Bigg, chief of the ambulance corps.
During the ride, Hemingway became agitated, Bigg said, and punched one of the two EMTs riding with her in the back of the ambulance. She then pepper-sprayed them both as well as the driver.
While the crew was blinded by the spray, she moved to the front and tried to drive the ambulance.
"She had it revved up and tried to get it into drive," Bigg said.
The paramedics were able to wrestle the woman out of the driver's seat, and police arrived shortly after.
Hemingway was charged with attempted first-degree robbery and two counts of second-degree assault, felonies, according to a press release.
Bigg said law-enforcement officials told the ambulance crew Hemingway did not have any weapons, aside from the pepper spray. She was restrained and taken to St. Luke's for a mental-health evaluation.
The three paramedics are not able to return to work yet. It takes days to remove pepper spray from the skin, Bigg said.
The back of the ambulance was coated in pepper spray, and some equipment, including an oxygen tank, had to be disposed of. Bigg estimated the damage at $5,000.
The ambulance corps will be pressing charges, Bigg said.
Under the state's penal code, assaulting an EMT is a felony. In May, the state Senate passed a bill that would make assaulting a paramedic a hate crime. The bill has not been voted on in the Assembly.
"It could've been very tragic," he said, recalling an incident in March in the Bronx when EMT Yadira Arroyo was killed after a man stole her ambulance and ran her over.
Bigg said many people don't realize how dangerous the job can be, especially since EMTs do not have the same protective equipment as police officers.