An Illinois man accused of commandeering an ambulance with a patient inside was charged Wednesday with the felony crime of vehicle theft.
A Dane County court commissioner set bail at $1,000 for Nicholas Pontillo, 24, of Lake Villa, Il.
Authorities and eyewitnesses said Pontillo slipped into the driver’s seat of an ambulance at Tyrol Basin ski resort Monday as two paramedics treated a high school competitor’s skiing injury in the back of the emergency vehicle, and drove a short distance in a parking lot.
Dane County emergency management specialist Carrie Meier told WKOW27 News the alleged, bizarre theft attempt may have been thwarted because the emergency responders had followed required procedure.
“They had the emergency brake on. That’s one thing we always do for safety reasons.”
Authorities said Pontillo ran off but was caught. Authorities said Pontillo was intoxicated. One eyewitness told WKOW27 News the suspects Pontillo may have driven the ambulance on a dare.
Authorities and Tyrol officials expressed concern over someone’s interference with an emergency response.
“It is a big deal when someone takes control of an emergency vehicle,” Tyrol Basin general manager Don McKay said.
Meier said it’s standard practice for a responding ambulance crew to leave the vehicle’s engine idling, to provide heat inside and power equipment installed in the ambulance. Meier said while ambulance crews will sometimes include a third member as a driver, both members of a two-person crew sometimes need to exit the ambulance’s cab and work to stabilize a patient.
Meier said emergency responders are always prepared for security risks.
“The first thing we learn in EMS class, when we take our course is scene safety. That’s a big deal, scene size-up.”
Meier said at crime scenes, ambulance crews will delay arrival if the scene is not secured and safe, and are almost always assisted by law enforcement.
McKay said the teenage patient in the ambulance had a painful knee injury and was successfully transported after the emergency responders regained control of the vehicle.
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