A 20-year-old Ellenville First Aid and Rescue Squad volunteer was suspended earlier this month for driving a 4-year-old child having seizures to the hospital — all because the group's rules require ambulance drivers be at least 21. Now, that decision is stirring controversy.
According to the Times Herald-Record, Stephen Sawyer, who's also a volunteer firefighter and part-time police officer, drove the girl to the hospital on Dec. 11 after repeated calls for an ambulance went unanswered.
He was at the rescue squad's headquarters when he first received the call and was unable to locate an available unit to respond, so he took things into his own hands.
"I wouldn't have been able to sleep at night or go to school knowing there's a 4-year-old suffering," Sawyer reportedly explained.
[sharequote align="center"]"I wouldn't have been able to sleep at night or go to school knowing there's a 4-year-old suffering"[/sharequote]
But, later that night the squad captain called him about the incident and Sawyer was eventually brought before a seven person panel about the incident.
While Sawyer admitted he broke rules, he insists his actions were the best option available. In a 4-3 decision, the board decided to suspend him for 60 days and revoke two of his titles.
Sawyer instead resigned from the volunteer position on the spot. Now, the board's decision is under fire.
According to the Times Herald-Record, Sawyer's story was posted on Facebook and went viral, with most comments in support of the 20-year-old.
John Gavaris, a captain and member of the board, wouldn't go into detail about Sawyer's case with the Times Herald-Record because it's a personnel matter, but said the rules aren't governed by insurance and noted that they are consistent with other rescue squads.
Garvis further added that the over 21-rule is in place to ensure drivers have adequate experience and discounted Sawyer's experience driving firetrucks and ambulances, saying it didn't matter, according to the Times Herald-Record.
"It seems very black and white and it's not very black and white," he reportedly said.
[sharequote align="center"]"It seems very black and white and it's not very black and white."[/sharequote]
"This is the type of story that the public doesn't need to be told," Gavaris added. "There's no value in this story other than shock value and gossip."
Sawyer just hopes the board rethinks their policies.
"As far as policy wise, the guys and girls on the board need to rethink their policies for the good of the community," he told the Times Herald-Record. "People shouldn't have to suffer over policy."
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