N.Y. woman gets prison for stealing ambulance, crashing it into Irondequoit Bay

A Kunkel Ambulance spokesperson said employees were cleaning the rig between shifts when Vanessa Armstead got in and drove away


Geoff Herbert
syracuse.com

UTICA, N.Y. — A Western New York woman has been sentenced to prison after stealing an ambulance in Utica and crashing it into water during a lengthy, high-speed chase.

The Observer-Dispatch reports Vanessa Armstead, of Buffalo, was sentenced to three-to-nine years in Oneida County Court on Monday. She pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree grand larceny earlier this month.

Vanessa Armstead was sentenced to three-to-nine years in Oneida County Court on Monday. She pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree grand larceny earlier this month after being arrested for ambulance theft in June 2021.
Vanessa Armstead was sentenced to three-to-nine years in Oneida County Court on Monday. She pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree grand larceny earlier this month after being arrested for ambulance theft in June 2021. (Photo/Oneida County District Attorney's Office)

Armstead was arrested in June 2021 and faced multiple charges after police said she stole an ambulance in Utica while it was undergoing COVID-19 cleaning, then drove it 137 miles down the thruway, almost all the way to Rochester before rolling it down a boat ramp and crashing it into Irondequoit Bay. A Kunkel Ambulance spokesperson said employees were cleaning the ambulance between shifts and just about to move it back into service when Armstead, who was 32 at the time, opened the doors and drove away.

The ambulance was tracked with a GPS locating device and police were able to find her as she drove through multiple counties, including Onondaga County. New York State Police attempted to stop the ambulance at two points during the long-distance chase, including in Verona in Oneida County and as the emergency vehicle exited I-490 near Rochester.

Armstead was eventually arrested after driving the ambulance into the bay and swimming to a nearby boat. The Monroe County Sheriff’s dive team and a towing company helped pull the ambulance out of the water, troopers said.

Authorities did not give a reason for Armstead’s theft.

According to the Observer-Dispatch, Armstead had been in an unrelated motor vehicle accident on the NYS Thruway on Saturday, June 12, last year. She was treated for injuries at the St. Elizabeth Campus of the Mohawk Valley Health System in Utica; she stole the ambulance the next morning, sometime after her release from the hospital.

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