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NY EMT hurt when bullet shatters ambulance window

The EMT was stuck by flying glass shards and debris, but was wearing a bulletproof vest thanks to a new policy to combat an uptick in gun violence

By John Valenti

BELLPORT, N.Y. — A 19-year-old volunteer emergency medical service worker was injured when the ambulance he was in was struck by "a fired projectile" while responding to a police call Tuesday night in Bellport, an EMS official said.

The worker, a volunteer with South Country Ambulance, was struck by debris, including flying glass shards, when the projectile, believed to be a bullet or high-powered pellet, penetrated a rear tempered-glass window, South Country Chief of Department Gregory C. Miglino Jr. told Newsday.

Miglino said the crew was responding to an call involving "a mentally unstable patient," a call that required the three crew members to be wearing bulletproof vests.

He said the vest policy, instituted about 18 months ago because of what he described as "an uptick in gun violence in the area," also helped prevent potentially serious injuries.

Miglino, who has served as chief since 1994, said he was "grateful" no one was seriously injured -- but said he was alarmed.

"We've never had anything like this," he said. "Nothing of this magnitude. We've never had a vehicle fired upon responding to help someone."

Suffolk County police said they could not immediately confirm the gunfire.

Miglino said the window is made of tempered glass and that the hole appears to be the result of being struck by "a fired projectile," adding: "The hole's perfectly round. It was definitely the result of someone firing something."

The incident occurred at 7:55 p.m. as the unit, No. 5-42-20, was responding to assist police on a call involving what South Country Ambulance characterized as "a mentally unstable patient" at the intersection of Post Avenue and Atlantic Avenue in Bellport.

The unit was in front of the Boys and Girls Club of Bellport, about a quarter-mile west of the call scene, when the EMS volunteer heard what was described as "a loud pop" -- and then reported being struck by "shrapnel," Miglino said.

Miglino said two of the crew members were in the front of the ambulance while the volunteer who was struck was riding in a "captain's chair" in the rear of the vehicle.

The front-seat crew members were not injured. The injured crew member was treated at the scene and later released. The identities of the crew members were not released.

South Country Ambulance is one of the largest volunteer EMS units in the state, handling about 3,000 calls a year.

"These are troubling times in our community," Miglino said, adding, "there seems to be a general lack of respect for anyone and now this includes ambulance volunteers."

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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