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Fatal 2010 accident involving Fort Drum ambulance prompts fourth lawsuit

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A 2010 accident in which a town of Gouverneur woman was killed and her daughter injured in a collision involving a Fort Drum ambulance has prompted a fourth lawsuit.

Carol A. Durham, Gouverneur, filed suit Sept. 1 in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, against the federal government seeking $3 million in damages, claiming the ambulance caused an April 24, 2010, accident on Route 11 in the town of LeRay in which Mrs. Durham was injured and her mother, Marjorie M. Swem, was killed.

According to the suit, a Fort Drum ambulance driven by Jorge A. Ponce was traveling on Route 11 preparing to meet up with an ambulance squad from Philadelphia. It is alleged that Mr. Ponce pulled to the road’s shoulder and then made an illegal U-turn across the road and into the path of the vehicle driven by Mrs. Durham. As a result of the accident, Mrs. Durham suffered four broken ribs, a dislocated and broken left wrist, cuts to her wrist, injuries to her knees requiring surgery and shock and trauma, among other injuries.

She claims Mr. Ponce, who was not charged with any traffic infractions as a result of the collision, was negligent by, among other things, not operating the ambulance’s siren or emergency lights while making the U-turn and failing to pay attention to traffic conditions at the time. She also contends that Mr. Ponce acted recklessly by disregarding the safety of other motorists.

The suit seeks damages awarded for Mrs. Durham’s injuries, including pain and suffering, incapacitation from normal pursuits, lost earnings and medical expenses and loss of enjoyment of life. She is represented by attorney William R. Heitz, Victor.

Mrs. Swem’s estate filed a federal wrongful-death suit against the government in July, which contained allegations similar to those in Mrs. Durham’s suit. The government filed an answer to that action Wednesday in which it denied each of the allegations and asked a judge to dismiss it. The accident also is the subject of two other lawsuits, both filed in state Supreme Court. Mrs. Swem’s estate and Carol Durham have each filed suit against the village of Philadelphia and its ambulance squad.

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