FREDONIA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Fredonia police say a 23-year-old man who is also a student at SUNY Fredonia stole an ambulance in the early morning hours of New Year's Day.
Police say around 3 a.m. Wednesday January 1, 2020, Fredonia Fire and Rescue responded to a residence on Central Avenue for a medical emergency and when they left the residence the ambulance was gone.
Police located the vehicle traveling north on Central Avenue where it drove up a curb, struck several signs, and got stuck on a lawn leading into SUNY Fredonia.
23-year-old Arda I. Gokce was identified as the driver, he refused to cooperate and fought with police before being taken into custody.
SUNY Fredonia confirmed that Gokce was an international student and the matter was referred to the college's office of student conduct.
Gokce faces the following charges: DWI, aggravated DWI, unlicensed driver, speed not reasonable and prudent, failure to keep right, driving on the sidewalk, obstructing emergency medical services, obstructing government administration, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, and criminal mischief in the fourth degree.
According to police, Gokce was released on an appearance ticket due to the NYS bail reform law. Gokce is scheduled to return to Fredonia Village Court on January 15, 2020.
The ambulance is valued at $240,000 and was out of service for three days while being fixed by Steve's Equipment Company in Silver Creek.
A mechanic tells 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly that the large truck had problems with its steering and alignment after the crash. The repair bill is expected to be several hundred dollars - which taxpayers will have to shoulder because of the way the village's insurance deductibles are structured.
The incident left the Fredonia Fire Department with only one ambulance to handle multiple calls, explained Fire Chief Ryan Walker. While the damaged ambulance was considered a "secondary" ambulance, it was still used often as part of the 2,000+ calls the department responds to each year. (A third ambulance was out-of-service for maintenance when this incident occurred.)
Chief Walker said mutual aid agreements with surrounding areas and a private ambulance company helped provide a backup while the damaged ambulance was down. The fire chief assures residents that they will still receive prompt assistance for medical emergencies when they call 911.