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Buffalo woman charged in stolen ambulance chase from Utica to Rochester

A Buffalo woman accused of leading police on a chase in a stolen ambulance from Utica to Rochester has been arrested and charged.

Posted: Jun 13, 2021 6:32 PM
Updated: Jun 14, 2021 2:16 PM

UTICA, N.Y. – A Buffalo woman was arrested after leading police on a chase in a stolen ambulance on Sunday.

Vanessa Armstead, 32, has been charged with criminal possession of stolen property, criminal trespass and criminal mischief, after allegedly stealing the vehicle from Kunkel Ambulance before ending up in the Irondequoit Bay near Rochester Sunday afternoon.

Utica police say Armstead was involved in a crash on the Thruway on Saturday, and was taken to St. Elizabeth Medical Center for treatment. Shortly after she was released, she went to Union Station in Utica, but never got on a train.

The following morning around 10 a.m. is when she is accused of stealing the Kunkel ambulance from the station on Catherine Street. Kunkel officials say the ambulance was parked in a bay to be cleaned and disinfected after a shift. Part of the COVID-19 cleaning protocols include distributing a solution with a fogger placed in the back of the ambulance for about 10 minutes. That's when the woman appears to have jumped in and drove off.

Utica Police alerted state police the ambulance was headed west on the I-90 around 10:40 a.m. Kunkel worked with authorities to track the vehicle using its GPS system.

Police tried to stop the ambulance at least two times, before the woman took the Victor exit near Rochester. Police say she proceeded into the city of Rochester, drove around, then headed to Irondequoit, where she crashed the ambulance into the bay. 

Armstead was rescued from the water and taken to shore.

A Monroe County scuba team was able to pull the ambulance up from the water just after 5 p.m.

The woman was rescued shortly after the ambulance went into what witnesses say was 30 feet of water.

Armstead was taken into custody and is currently being held at the Monroe County jail on $3,500 bail.

Utica police also charged Armstead with burglary and grand larceny.

The investigation is ongoing, and the suspect may face additional charges.

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