New York clubs under investigation for use of private ambulances

Friday, April 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Some Manhattan nightclubs are under investigation for hiring private ambulances to take overdosed clubgoers to hospital emergency rooms, allegedly to avoid having to call 911 and draw police attention.

The practice was noticed last fall by emergency room nurses at a New York hospital when a large number of people suffering drug overdoses began showing up on weekend nights, usually transported by private ambulances, both The New York Times and Daily News reported Friday.

The patients often had not been given the proper care en route, and many were in such serious condition they needed to be put on respirators, nurses said.

Hospital officials notified the Manhattan district attorney's office, which is investigating the practice.

``It is ludicrous,'' Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington told the Times. ``People are overdosing and the fact they put an ambulance outside a nightclub should be enough to establish that nightclub should be closed.''

Nightclub executives acknowledge they hire the ambulances because of drugs, but said their use of the private service is no different from that of sports teams or large concert arenas hiring private ambulances for major events.

The district attorney's office is also looking into the fatal drug overdose of a patron at Twilo, a trendy New York nightclub that is a focus of the investigation.

In court papers, Joseph Murray, a former guard at Twilo, said James Wiest, who later died at St. Vincent's Medical Center, was held in a safe area for a few hours before being taken to the hospital.

The district attorney's office would not comment on the investigation.