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Emergency

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File photo

A late night house fire on Parkside Avenue in Miller Place Thursday night killed a 70-year-old man inside, Suffolk County police said Friday.

Authorities said a 911 caller reported the fire at 106 Pakrside Ave. around 11:50 p.m. Thursday night. That was when members of the Miller Place Fire Department discovered the man, whose identity was being withheld until authorities could notify his next of kin, and pulled him out of the blaze.

Police said the fire department took the man to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, where he was pronounced dead.

Detectives said they did not believe the fire was criminal in nature.

Firefighters from other departments, including Rocky Point, Sound Beach, Mount Sinai and Middle Island also responded to the fire to help extinguish the flames, the county police department said.

File photo

A dispatcher in training for the Suffolk County Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services helped deliver a baby over the phone on Wednesday morning.

According to a press release from the FRES, a man who had been on the way to the hospital called 911 shortly before 10 a.m. to report that his wife was in labor but the baby’s delivery could not wait. He had pulled their vehicle to the side of Nesconset Highway in East Setauket, in front of the Walmart.

Dispatcher Joseph Pucci answered the call. FRES said he verified the couple’s location and that the woman was 36 weeks pregnant, about to deliver for the fourth time. He gave instructions to the 38-year-old woman’s husband, and the couple delivered a baby boy within three minutes.

Pucci, who FRES said has been training for the past five months, instructed the father on how to check the baby’s breathing, keep the infant warm and use a shoelace to tie off his umbilical cord. Then he stayed on the line until Suffolk County police and Setauket Fire Department personnel arrived on the scene.

According to FRES, both the mother and the baby seemed healthy and were transported to Stony Brook University Hospital.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone commended the dispatcher-in-training for his work later on Wednesday.

“Thanks to the knowledgeable response from emergency service dispatcher Joseph Pucci, a baby boy was delivered safely this morning,” he said. “Good training and clear thinking helped this couple and their baby just as it was needed. Congratulations to this family on their newest arrival.”

Divers with the Suffolk County Police Department pursue the aircraft as the missing person search continues. Photo from Margo Arceri

By Phil Corso

 

Story last updated 2.22.16, 12:30 p.m.

Police are combing through the region where Port Jefferson Harbor and Setauket Harbor meet near Poquott after a small plane crashed there late Saturday night, authorities said.

The small plane, which cops said was a Piper PA-28 carrying four people, went down shortly after 11 p.m. near the vicinity of 108 Van Brunt Manor Rd., Poquott Mayor Dee Parrish said. An extensive response from emergency personnel followed, during which three people were recovered from the water — but one remained missing, and that search was ongoing through the beginning of this week, officials said.

Police said on Sunday that a student pilot, 25-year-old Bronx resident Austricio Ramirez was flying the plane when the problems arose and turned the controls over to his instructor, 36-year-old Queens resident Nelson Gomez, who landed the plane in the harbor.

All the passengers in the four-seater plane were able to exit into the water, after which Ramirez, Nelson and passenger Wady Perez, a 25-year-old from Queens, were rescued by police.

But Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said the search and rescue operation remained in effect for one missing person, who was identified as 23-year-old Queens resident Gerson Salmon-Negron, with assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard.

“We’re going to do everything we can to find that individual,” he said.

The three people pulled from the water were being treated at Stony Brook University Hospital, officials said. They have since been released.

Peter Stubberfield of Poquott said he and his wife heard the plane flying immediately above his house off the harbor Saturday night immediately followed by the sound of emergency vehicles.

“Within minutes of hearing the plane, there were about 15 to 20 emergency vehicles right in front of our private drive,” he said. “There were two helicopters flying around continually, so we assumed something was going on in the water.”

Margo Arceri, who lives on the Strongs Neck side of the water where the plane crashed, said she and her neighbors jumped into action as soon as they noticed emergency vehicles making their way into the small North Shore community. Upon stepping outside Saturday night, Arceri said she watched emergency personnel pull survivors out of the water, wrap them in blankets and remove them to the nearby hospital.

As the incident unfolded, Arceri said everyone living along the shoreline did something to help, whether that meant picking up a telephone, making way for emergency responders, or even offering up their personal kayaks for rescuers to use to lift the survivors out to safety.

“Where this occurred, there are only a few homes, but instantly, the neighbors pulled together,” she said. “They say, ‘it takes a village,’ and these neighbors showed a real sense of community. We all pulled together immediately. I just wish it had a happier ending.”

One eyewitness who did not want to be named said she called the police Saturday night after watching the plane fly over her Poquott home and into the water. Seconds after hitting the water, the resident said she heard the survivors in the water yelling to each other.

“It sounded like they were talking to each other — not calling out for assistance. I yelled to them to ask if they needed help, but they didn’t hear me at all,” she said. “Within seconds, I saw a large helicopter overhead.”

Police arrived soon after, the woman said, and she and her husband then offered up their three personal kayaks to rescuers, who used the boats to retrieve the survivors.

“I just wish I had put the phone down and run down to the beach,” the witness said. “I just watched. I saw the lights on the plane go out. I’m having a really horrible time with this whole thing.”

A spokesman with the Federal Aviation Administration said Sunday that the plane was en route to Republic Airport in Farmingdale, after taking off from Fitchburg, Mass., but the pilot was reporting engine issues before attempting a forced landing.

Both the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board were at the scene of the crash from Saturday night into the beginning of this week to help with the search efforts, authorities said. Also helping the Suffolk County Police Department and the Coast Guard were local fire departments and the town harbormaster.

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The Port Jefferson Volunteer Ambulance Company serves Port Jefferson, Belle Terre and Mount Sinai. File photo

Village officials have blocked the local ambulance company from billing residents for service, three months after an explosive debate on the practice.

A few residents argued during a Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees meeting in November that it was unfair, after paying ambulance district taxes, they received bills for ambulance rides when their insurance companies either denied a claim or left them with a hefty deductible to pay. But the board insisted such bills were not the intention of the plan enacted several years ago to help their emergency medical organization recoup expenses.

Faced with rising costs in the ambulance district — which includes Port Jefferson, Belle Terre and Mount Sinai — the board authorized the Port Jefferson Volunteer Ambulance Company to bill patients’ insurance companies for service within their jurisdiction, using the collected funds to offset ambulance taxes.

The bills being sent later on to patients, according to PJVAC Deputy Chief Rob Stoessel, originated because his group and its third-party billing company are obligated to ask for the balance if the insurance does not cover the entire cost. In November he described the requirement as a “good faith attempt.”

Before insurance, the fee on a call for emergency medical care is $900, with an additional $18 for each mile the ambulance transports a patient. Stoessel said that amount takes into consideration both medical and nonmedical expenses like gasoline.

Both he and Mayor Margot Garant agreed that when the billing program was created, the idea was for patients to receive three notices for bills, with no consequences for not paying — as the ambulance company does not have a mechanism for collections.

“The insurance companies, God bless them — collect every nickel from them,” Garant said in November. But “we didn’t want the resident to be pursued for any of the fees.”

Residents who received the bills complained that wasn’t common knowledge, and they were concerned about their credit ratings.

Monica Williams was denied Medicare coverage for her treatment.

“I don’t really think that any village resident … should be looking at a bill like that,” Williams said in November. “It’s surprising. It’s disappointing.”

She called it “being billed for the same thing twice.”

But Williams saw a solution on Monday night, when the Board of Trustees voted to ban the ambulance company from billing residents.

The previous law that allowed the company “to bill, directly, village residents for the use of its ambulance services … is hereby rescinded,” according to the measure members approved at their meeting. It also forgives all unpaid balances currently hanging against residents.

PJVAC will still be able to collect funds from the insurance companies.

Garant said there would be consequences “if we hear of any resident getting any more collection documents from the ambulance [district].”

Squad says it services highest call volume in town

Huntington Community First Aid Squad is the subject of a recent study. File photo

A report shows that Huntington Community First Aid Squad is requesting more help from neighboring fire departments than any other ambulance service in Huntington.

According to the report, commissioned by Huntington Town, five volunteer fire departments in the town approached town officials about an increase in requests from the Huntington ambulance squad to respond to calls in the squad’s service area.

HCFAS made more requests for ambulance support than those five departments combined, according to the report.

In a phone interview this week, Alyssa Axelrod, vice president of HCFAS, said that the study is misleading because it does not mention that the squad receives more calls than the five other departments combined.

HCFAS was formed in 1967 as a nonprofit and is the only exclusive volunteer ambulance program in the town. The taxpayers and Huntington Town fund the squad’s operations.

The chiefs at the respective fire departments started noticing an increase in requests starting in 2013, according to the study.

Huntington Town responded to those concerns by hiring Medic Health to assess the operational practices of HCFAS and provide recommendations to reduce the number of requests to neighboring fire departments and ambulance squads.

The study began in June 2014. Consultants worked with the Huntington ambulance squad, representatives of Suffolk County Fire Rescue and Emergency Services and Huntington Town to gather and analyze information.

The study found instances where HCFAS was understaffed during certain shifts.

In one graph, the study shows times of the day and days of the week where current staffing levels, which is a minimum of two staffed ambulances, may not be sufficient to cover the community’s demand. The study states that 1 and 5 p.m. are the two times of the day where resources are lacking the most, during six out of the seven days of the week, according to the study. Saturday from 1 to 7 p.m. is the busiest.

Currently the HCFAS services Huntington Town with a minimum of two on-duty ambulance crews based at the station for daytime shifts, and one crew for overnight shifts, according to Axelrod.

The study also highlighted a problem caused by the staff being made up entirely of volunteers.

Commitments from volunteers varied considerably for overnight and daytime coverage, according to the study. The report stated that 17 percent of the planned shifts had an insufficient number of members to staff the desired two ambulances. A chart showed the number of ambulances the HCFAS can field during different shifts based on member commitment. Friday, Saturday and Sunday overnight shifts only have enough member commitments to staff one or fewer ambulances, according to the chart. This is the same for 7 to 11:00 a.m. shifts on Friday and 3 to 7 p.m. shifts on Friday and Saturday.

Although there is no official time for how quickly an ambulance should respond to a call, organizations have given time limits to respond to life-threatening calls.

The Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services said a total response time standard of eight minutes and fifty-nine seconds is expected for life-threatening calls.

In 2014, the HCFAS was able to be on the scene to 62 percent of their calls within eight minutes of the call receipt, 76 percent within 10 minutes and 89 percent within 15 minutes. According to the study, 11 percent of the calls required more than 15 minutes for an ambulance to arrive on the scene.

If an ambulance can’t respond to the scene, mutual aid requests come into play.

Mutual aid requests were designed to allow surrounding departments to assist each other during times of unusual demand for services, like mass casualty situations or disasters. Volunteer-based organizations like HCFAS also resort to mutual aid requests when they are unable to muster sufficient resources to staff an ambulance and respond to a call.

During the first five months of 2015, HCFAS requested mutual aid 41 times compared to 23 times by all the adjacent departments.

The study concludes with eight recommendations for the HCFAS to reduce its mutual aid requests. They include employing dedicated staff to provide coverage for shifts that are too difficult to staff with current volunteer squad members, restructuring the recruitment and orientation process to reduce time investment for prospective members, and more.

It also states Huntington Town should mandate the submission of monthly performance measurements, including response time performance reports and establishing response time expectations.

Axelrod said she believes that there is a misunderstanding about what this study is about.

“We are a busy department,” Axelrod said. “This year we will do 60,000 calls. We’re stripped of our percentage of calls we get in this report. The report doesn’t show that we respond to more calls than the five other departments combined.”

She said this makes the report confusing, but there were helpful discoveries and some recommendations that HCFAS wants to integrate moving forward, according to Axelrod.

She said the squad is changing how it brings in members as it’s currently a lengthy process.

“The process is steeped in caution,” Axelrod said. “We are very careful when we vet people before we let them ride in an ambulance.”

She also said the squad has considered non-volunteers, and has added a line item to their budget for 2016 to add paid personnel. According to Axelrod, the squad’s budget for this year will be cut by 15 percent, so they will have to look into other funds if they want to hire employees.

“The bottom line is we do a great job and these other departments do a great job,” Axelrod said. “But when you take out the number of calls we respond to, it makes us look deficient.”

File photo by Arlene Gross

The North Shore is bracing for what the National Weather Service called a hazardous weather outlook in effect for Suffolk County from Thursday, Oct. 1 until Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Heavy rains are possible later this week through the weekend with the potential for gale force winds Friday and Saturday, according to weather reports. Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said his department was tracking the storm and preparing for a swift response.

“Currently, there are conflicting reports for the track of Hurricane Joaquin and my staff and I will be diligently tracking this storm,” Losquadro said. “The Brookhaven Highway Department has its equipment ready and our crews will be out working to address whatever this storm may bring our way.”

Losquadro said if residents see downed wires during this time, they should stay away from them and simply report them to PSEG immediately at 1-800-490-0075. To report a Highway related issue, residents can call (631) 451-9200.

Residents should also make sure to keep ice in a cooler and have plenty of food and water in their homes, as well as batteries in case of a power outage. Losquadro said it was important to keep cell phones fully charged and use them as little as possible in case of a power outage.

Residents can quickly report an outage by texting “OUT” to PSEGLI (773454), which will send confirmation that an outage has been submitted and will begin receiving ongoing updates as the status of outage changes. This requires one time registration. To register text REG to 773454.

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Narcan, a drug that stops opioid overdoses. File photo by Jessica Suarez

Suffolk County is hosting a Narcan training class to teach residents how to administer the life-saving drug that stops opioid overdoses.

According to the county health department, the training class meets New York State requirements and will teach attendees how to recognize and overdose on opioids such as heroin and Vicodin. They will also learn how to administer Narcan through an overdose victim’s nose and what additional steps to take until emergency medical personnel arrive on the scene.

Participants who complete the training will receive a certificate and an emergency resuscitation kit that contains Narcan, also known as naloxone.

The class will be held on Monday, Sept. 14, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Office of Health Education in the North County Complex, 725 Veterans Highway, Bldg. C928, Hauppauge.

For more information on the class, contact Wanda Ortiz at 631-853-4017 or wanda.ortiz@suffolkcountyny.gov.

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Downed trees were a common sight along Route 25A in the Setauket- East Setauket and Stony Brook areas. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The winds have subsided, but Setauket and Stony Brook still have a lot of debris to clean up since last week’s brutal storm sent the North Shore for a spin.

An early morning windstorm made its way through the area early last Tuesday morning, toppling trees and downing power lines. The electricity has since been restored, a spokesman for PSEG Long Island said, and the utility has been providing more than 600 workers to ensure all temporary repairs are made permanent. Most roads have been cleared of fallen trees, and the town has been moving nearly 1,000 cubic yards of material a day amid cleanup efforts.

But there is still a ways to go.

Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said it could take another two to three weeks for Setauket and Stony Brook to be declared 100 percent passable. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Losquadro said his team buddied up with utility PSEG to help remove trees from roadways while grappling with fallen utility poles and electric wires. Now, he said it’s all about following through on the stragglers.

“This week, we’ve been bringing crews in an hour early each day to continue the debris removal process,” he said in a phone interview this week. “While we have shifted skeleton crews back out to their respective districts, a vast majority of my assets are still deployed in this area doing debris removal.”

Losquadro said the trucks were moving quickly to remove debris and bring it to his department’s Setauket yard to be handled. And he credited a big chunk of his team’s efficiency since the winds came barreling through on his emergency management preparedness.

“We had a plan set up with [the] waste management [department] that they would move their big grinder — the one at the Brookhaven landfill — to an area where we would stage material out of,” he said. “Now, we only have to handle the materials once.”

In prior storms, Losquadro said the town moved waste materials two to three times before they hit a landfill, which slowed down the recovery process and ended up costing more money. But the new plan has made cleaning up more efficient.

On a financial note, Losquadro said the storm will undoubtedly put a dent in his overall budget but his team would remain vigilant in tracking all costs and seeking reimbursement from the state, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, when the recovery efforts conclude.

“It will be a significant number,” he said. “There’s no two ways about it. It’s a fact that that area was hit harder by this storm than it was hit by [Hurricane] Sandy.”

The highway superintendent said the hardest-hit areas in Setauket and Stony Brook should be able to fully put the storm behind them in a matter of two weeks or so.

“The fact that this was a localized event did allow me to pour many more assets into a smaller area to get the recovery done faster,” he said. “It also allowed PSEG to do the same thing. I, myself, could not be happier with the organization of my operation.”

Severe weather toppled trees and downed power lines across the North Shore on Tuesday morning, leaving roads unnavigable and residents without electricity in areas including Port Jefferson, Setauket, Smithtown and Stony Brook.

The National Weather Service sent out three separate thunderstorm warnings in the early morning hours between 4 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. citing reports of hail, thunderstorms and wind damage with trees falling onto homes and power lines down throughout the Port Jefferson area. By daybreak, intense winds and rain made way for a sunny morning that revealed the aftermath of the storm. Trees were in the streets and traffic lights had gone black.

By 11 a.m. on Tuesday, utility PSEG Long Island reported more than 20,000 customers in Brookhaven Town without power and more than 8,000 in Smithtown. Over 42,000 customers were affected in total and as of 10:30 a.m. 38,027 are without power throughout Long Island and the Rockaways, PSEG said.

Route 25A in East Setauket was a hotbed of activity on Tuesday morning, and the Suffolk County Police Department urged drivers to treat outed traffic lights as stop signs in lieu of electricity. In fact, SCPD requested all drivers to completely avoid Route 25A all together on Tuesday morning in Port Jefferson, Setauket and Stony Brook as various road closures were underway to remove trees from the streets. By 10:30 a.m., SCPD announced that Route 25A was closed in both directions between Franklin Street and Stony Hill Road in Port Jefferson.

Lights along Nicolls Road in Stony Brook, and all lights from Nicolls Road on Route 25A stretching to Main Street in Setauket were out this morning. Tree and leaves were strewn across Route 25A, and traffic moved slowly along the thoroughfare in the Setauket and Stony Brook areas. SCPD cars were a common sight. The lights were out at many businesses along Main Street in Stony Brook.

In a statement, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said he was working with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office to coordinate resources to respond to hard-hit areas.

“The storm that hit this morning caused extensive damage and power outages throughout the North Shore, and I have authorized all resources from Parks and Waste Management Departments to assist the Highway Department in the clean-up effort,” he said. “Our Emergency Operations Center was activated at 6:30 a.m. and currently, a PSEG representative is coordinating efforts to restore power to more than 21,000 Brookhaven residents.”

The Smithtown Fire Department responded to a call of the first of many downed power lines at 5:01 a.m., according to spokesman Jeff Bressler. The alarms were the result of a quick-moving powerful storm that made its way through the Smithtown area. As of 8:43 a.m., eight calls were dispatched for wires in addition to a CO activation and a mutual aid to a structural fire in St. James, Bressler said.

The National Weather Service also issued a coastal hazard message as the storm battered the North Shore, warning residents to watch out for strong rip currents flowing away from the shorelines.

Rohma Abbas contributed to this report.

Tweet us your updates on the aftermath of the storm @TBRNewspapers.

Send us your storm photos to News@TBRNewspapers.com.

Crab Meadow Beach. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Strong winds left three kayakers lost and adrift on Tuesday before emergency responders brought them to shore, the Suffolk County Police Department said.

Michael Fisher, 16, his brother Matthew Fisher, 20, and Kevin Nobs, 16, all of East Northport, were a little more than one mile north of Crab Meadow Beach in Fort Salonga when police said winds picked up and brought them out into the Long Island Sound — too far for them to paddle back to shore. Nobs’ kayak had overturned while Matthew Fisher jumped out of his kayak to attempt to swim to shore, police said.

The three had become separated in the exchange, and were floating as two lifeguards at Crab Meadow Beach grabbed their long boards and jumped into the water to try and save them. They were, however, unsuccessful.

Marine Bureau Police officers Paul Carnival and Keith Walters responded to the incident and rescued all three kayakers along with the two lifeguards who tried to save them. The kayakers did not require medial attention, police said.

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