JOHNSBURG - The Johnsburg Emergency Medical Squad announced its support this week for a highly-decorated, paid squad member who was pulled over in early March and charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated.
Joe Connelly, 45, of North Creek was pulled over on March 1 for speeding and failed a field sobriety test while en route to the Newcomb EMS headquarters, where he also was employed as a paid responder.
According to documents filed with the Minerva Town Court, Connelly had a blood alcohol content of .19, more than twice the legal limit.
"All of my life I have always drawn a line between working and drinking," Connelly said March 26. "Until that day in March, I thought I had it under control."
Johnsburg EMS President Mark Bergman said that Connelly was not responding to the Johnsburg squad and therefore has not broken any squad rules of conduct.
"Joe is a tremendously valued squad member who has never given us any reason to doubt his readiness or abilities," Bergman said. "The squad is in total support of Joe."
Connelly has submitted his resignation to the Newcomb EMS following the incident.
Bergman said that Connelly's ambulance driving privileges have been suspended until he receives an unconditional license.
"Because of this I now realize that I need help," Connelly said. "I am determined to never let alcohol effect my life again."
Connelly, a New York City native, has worked as an EMS responder since 1987, much of that in the city itself.
In the early 1990s he received the New York City Medal of Honor for his work on a Union Station subway derailment.
He has been a resident and of Johnsburg and an active member of the local EMS since 2001.
He had been employed by the Newcomb squad for 18 months, he said.
His 1998 book Bringing out the Dead was adapted into the 1999 Martin Scorsese film of the same title starring Nicholas Cage.
His emergency medical work following the 2005 Kashmir earthquake was featured on 60 Minutes and in Men's Journal.
The latter was authored by Connelly and chronicled the work of the responders in a place 6,000 miles from their homes.
He is currently working on his third book, Volunteers, which again will draw from his 22 years of experience dealing with catastrophe and heartache.
"This is a single mistake in a lifetime of good work," Connelly said. "I have never been in trouble before - I have done a lot of good work and a hope to continue trying to better myself and the community."
For Connelly, even with all of his literary accomplishments, his true calling is clear. His written work is further evidence of his commitment and passion for the emergency medical field, he said.
"I am a better paramedic than writer," he said. "It would hurt me to stop doing what I love the most - caring for people."