Jonathan Bezrutczyk was returning to his office at 3 Park Avenue in Manhattan late last Tuesday afternoon when he says he watched as a fire truck pulled up to a stoplight and proceeded to blast its horn as pedestrians crossed in front of the vehicle. Apparently laughing, according to Bezrutczyk, the driver continued down 34th Street and approached a bus stop full of people, again blasting the truck’s horn.
Upset by what he witnessed, Bezrutczyk fired off a letter about the driver, who he believed showed no regard for public safety, to the fire department whose name was painted in gold on the side of the truck — the Sag Harbor Fire Department.
Except the driver was not a member of the Sag Harbor Fire Department and the truck was technically not a part of the department’s fleet. Rather, it was a new fire truck being delivered to a Jericho, Long Island dealership where fire department officials hoped to pick it up some time next week.
For the chief of a department over 200 years old, and one that has prided itself on its decorum, despite the fact the Sag Harbor Fire Department had nothing to do with the situation Chief Pete Garypie took the situation very seriously. In the last week the department received a personal apology from the President of Apparatus Movers — the firm hired to bring the fire truck to Long Island by Spartan Motors.
In that letter, Apparatus Movers President Mark Johannsen apologized for the incident, but also said what occurred was an innocent mistake — a statement backed up by Russell Chick, the director of communications for Spartan Motors.
According to Chick, the driver said he was stretching when he accidentally hit the horn pedal, which is located at a driver’s feet in a fire truck. The driver denies a second blasting, and according to Chick has profusely apologized for the incident and the fact that it has garnered so much attention.
“Nothing malicious was involved based on our investigation,” said Chick, adding Apparatus Movers has delivered fire trucks throughout the nation without incident. “We are all about safety. We build trucks to protect both firefighters and citizens so this would be counter to everything we believe and do. We cannot imagine any scenario where something like this would have been done in a malicious way.”
Chick stressed that both the Sag Harbor Fire Department and Hendrickson Truck Center in Jericho — which was given the contact by the fire department for the truck — did not have any involvement with the delivery of the truck.
Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, a member of the fire department and former chief, said he practically sprinted to the fire department last week after learning about the situation, relieved to see truck 714 — about to be retired to an upstate fire department — sitting in its bay. It was only then he learned that its replacement was en route to Long Island and could have been the truck in question in Manhattan.
“Obviously, this is not something we are happy about,” he said.
Despite conflicting reports and the lack of his department’s involvement, Chief Garypie said the situation was “unacceptable” and apologized for anyone who felt aggrieved by the alleged incident.
“We are professionals and no one should take this as a reflection about how we operate,” he said. “Our reputation speaks for itself, but we are in contact with the manufacturer and the dealership to make sure this is dealt with.”