Buffalo woman facing multiple charges after stolen Utica ambulance crashed into Irondequoit Bay | WHEC.com

Buffalo woman facing multiple charges after stolen Utica ambulance crashed into Irondequoit Bay

Crews lift the stolen ambulance out of Irondequoit Bay on June 13, 2021. Photo: News10NBC. Crews lift the stolen ambulance out of Irondequoit Bay on June 13, 2021.

Raven Brown
Updated: June 15, 2021 06:50 AM
Created: June 14, 2021 10:08 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — State Police say a Buffalo woman is facing several charges after troopers say she stole an ambulance from the Utica area and ultimately crashed it into Irondequoit Bay Sunday afternoon.

Police say 32-year-old Vanessa Armstead was arrested and charged with second-degree criminal possession of stolen property, third-degree criminal trespass, and two counts of second-degree criminal mischief.

Utica Police confirmed Monday  Armstead stole the ambulance from Kunkel Ambulance, a Utica-based provider. Police say the ambulance depot had its garage doors open, and the ambulance was in for routine cleaning. No crew members were present when the ambulance was taken.

UPD says Armstead was originally in a Saturday car crash on the Thruway and was taken to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Utica for treatment. She was released and later showed up at the Union Train Station in Utica. Police say she showed up at the Kunkel depot around 10 a.m Sunday and stole the ambulance.

Police used a GPS device located in the ambulance to track it as headed west on the Thruway, where troopers spotted it in the Verona area.

After spotting Armstead, troopers tried to stop the ambulance with stingers twice, but both attempts were unsuccessful, and a pursuit was called off. Later, Armstead would exit the Thruway in Victor before taking 490 to the Culver Road exit.

Shortly after, police say she crashed through the gate at the Newport Yacht Club in Irondequoit, and ultimately, wound up in the bay around 12:15 p.m. A witness told News10NBC they saw the ambulance speed down the hill to the Yacht Club and saw it go airborne before crashing into the bay.

After being picked up by nearby boaters, Armstead was ultimately taken into custody by deputies with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.

UPD announced Armstead will face additional charges including felony third-degree burglary and felony second-degree grand larceny.

Jail records show she is in the Monroe County Jail. Her bail was set at $3500 cash. Her next court date is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday at Irondequoit Town Court

State Police are working with the Utica Police Department and the investigation is continuing. 

Ben Vieira and his friends were on Irondequoit Bay when it happened.

"We were screaming at her the whole time, 'Is there anyone else in there?' 'Is there anyone else in there?' and she just kind of stood silent," Vieira said.

Needles to say, it was not a typical boating Sunday.

“As soon as the ambulance turned that corner, we just heard like tires screech because she hit the gas all the way down, and next thing you know, 'Boom!' It smashes into the water and water flies everywhere,” Vieira said.

They were in the boat as the ambulance came flying past the Newport Yacht Club splashing into the bay.

“I grew up in Rochester all my life and so my first thought was 'We got to go the other way',” Vieira said. “I knew just how an ambulance wouldn't slam on the gas like that in that instance, so I knew it had to be stolen and someone who wasn't supposed to be driving it was driving it and my buddy who was driving the boat was like, 'We can't we can't just leave them.'"

That’s when he said, Armstead jumped out of the driver’s side window into the water and they pulled up to the passenger side of the ambulance to help in whatever way they could.

“I’m kind of putting my head against the window and I couldn't really see because the vehicles are tinted and my buddy was like smash the window, smash the window so I was going to smash the window and I put my head against it and kind of cuffed my eyes to see into it and saw the stretcher bed was empty so we just kind of backed off and a few seconds later it just dropped into the bottom,” Vieira said. 

He said some other boaters were able to help Armstead out of the water into their boat, taking her to the dock where police were waiting.

“The boats that were docked were splashing everywhere because of just the impact that she made into the water,” Vieira said.


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