EMT, ambulance service face suit

JOHNSTOWN – An emergency medical technician accused of having unwanted sexual contact with patients in an ambulance told one of his alleged victims the activity was part of a “body cavity search” after he removed her clothing, according to a lawsuit.

The alleged victim, a woman, filed the suit Thursday in state Supreme Court in Johnstown against Donald Frye of Broadalbin and the Ambulance Service of Fulton County, which employs him as an EMT.

Frye, who also is a Gloversville firefighter, was charged last month with two counts of forcible touching over alleged incidents in 2011 and last year in which women told police they were touched in a sexual manner while patients in the ambulance.

The Leader-Herald is withholding the plaintiff’s name because the paper generally does not identify victims of sexual abuse without their consent. Her attorney, Robert Abdella of Gloversville, did not return a phone message seeking comment.

Abdella also represents another woman who initiated legal action against Frye and the ambulance service on Feb. 1, according to state Supreme Court documents filed in the Fulton County clerk’s office, but no lawsuit was attached.

The complaint filed Thursday alleges Frye sexually assaulted, molested and violated the woman by putting his hands on her body and penetrating her with a finger March 8, 2011, while she was under his care in an ambulance. The suit says all contact occurred without her permission.

She was left with permanent mental and emotional injuries and “has suffered severe emotional, psychological and mental distress and anxiety and will likely suffer from such anxiety and distress for the rest of her life,” the lawsuit says. The lawsuit doesn’t specify an amount the plaintiff is seeking.

The ambulance service is named in the lawsuit for allegedly being negligent by “not making reasonable inquiries” into Frye’s background. The lawsuit says Frye “exhibited a pattern of inappropriate, reckless and dangerous conduct” in his treatment of female patients, but the ambulance service didn’t fire him “immediately upon discovery of such mistreatment,” exposing the plaintiff and other patients to “Donald Frye’s sexual predation.”

Police said they initially investigated the woman’s allegation but did not have enough evidence to pursue charges against Frye until a second incident was reported to police Jan. 17.

In that incident, Frye allegedly touched another woman in intimate areas while she was in the back of an ambulance.

Frye was arrested Jan. 30, charged with two counts of forcible touching, and released on his own recognizance. Gloversville Police Capt. John Sira said Monday the case is still active.

Frye could not be reached for comment. A phone message left at his home in the town of Broadalbin on Monday was not returned.

City Fire Chief Beth Whitman-Putnam referred questions on Frye’s job status to the city’s labor attorney, Bryan Goldberger, who did not return a phone message seeking comment. Howard Hime, manager of the Ambulance Service of Fulton County, could not be reached for comment for this story.

By -