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Volunteer Ambulance Driver Arrested for DUI

PAYSON, Utah -- Police arrested a volunteer ambulance driver for investigation of driving under the influence of alcohol early Saturday morning after he responded to a call to transport a hospital patient to another medical facility, officials said.

The 44-year-old volunteer was serving as a backup driver from his home that morning when he heard a call for an additional driver, said Payson Fire Chief Scott Spencer.

"There were no patients on board though," said Spencer.

The volunteer had apparently been drinking at home before he left to pick up an ambulance and a two-man EMT crew late Friday night to take a patient from Payson's Mountain View Hospital to Provo's Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, officials said.

The driver, however, didn't get that far.

"He only drove (the ambulance) about four or five blocks," said Spencer. "When he got to the hospital where he was to (pick up the patient for) transport, he was stopped."

His ambulance crew was suspicious during the short ride, but a Payson police officer at the hospital initiated an investigation after apparently smelling alcohol on the man, Spencer said.

The man, a 16-year veteran volunteer for the department, submitted to a field sobriety test, including a Breathalyzer, Spencer said.

"They showed me the results," Spencer said. "It was a real disappointment, but I told them we had to treat him like anybody else."

Payson police said an initial test showed the man's blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit. They handed the investigation over to the Utah County Sheriff's Office to avoid a conflict of interest.

Sheriff deputies arrested the driver and booked him into Utah County Jail on a probable cause statement for DUI at 1 a.m. Jail officials released him after he posted a $1,300 cash bail an hour and a half later. No charges have been filed.

The man was immediately suspended after his arrest while police investigated. On Wednesday, however, the man resigned from the department while conveying regret for the incident.

"He resigned and said he was really sorry," said Spencer.

The man apparently has no prior arrests or any history of DUI violations, according to jail and court records.

"It just frustrates me because he knows better," Spencer said. "He wanted to help out but made a poor decision." E-mail: jhancock@desnews.com

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