A man has been hailed as a “hero” after pulling multiple people from vehicles and putting them in a nearby school during a deadly snowstorm in New York.
Jay Withey of the Buffalo suburb of Tonawanda broke a window at the school, leaving 10 other people and two dogs inside for warmth and safety, police said.
Up to four feet of snow hit upstate and western New York on Dec. 23, and the snow piled up even higher, resulting in complete whiteouts.
While emergency services were stretched to capacity and 24/7 power crews were working to restore power, surveillance cameras showed images showing a man smashing a school window and helping people inside.
It was Mr. Withey who left a handwritten note.
In the letter, he apologized for the damaged windows and explained that the blizzard outside had left multiple people trapped in the car.
The temperature was around 1 degree Fahrenheit (-17 degrees Celsius, but it felt like -29 degrees Celsius in the wind chill), and many of the 39 people who died died in unheated cars.
“Trapped at 8pm on a Friday night, sleeping in my truck with two strangers, just don’t want to die,” the note read.
“Seven old men got stuck too and ran out of gas. I had to [break the window] Rescue everyone and provide them with shelter, food and bathrooms. Merry Christmas, Jay. “
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Police said it wasn’t because of a note left inside the school, and they probably didn’t know anyone was inside, as police initially believed the windows had been blown out by the wind.
Police released the images and sought help identifying “Jay” after the school’s surveillance cameras showed a group of people and two dogs hiding inside the school.
A statement from the force said: “We watched the video surveillance and witnessed people caring for people.
“There was a fridge full of food, but no one touched it. They only ate what was necessary to stay alive.
“They use the gym for the kids to play and pull the smart boards out of the classroom to watch news updates.
“When they’re finally able to leave safely, you never know there are people there.
“This amazing group of people takes care of each other and the building they are in.”
‘like family now’
They said no one will be prosecuted for the damage.
The head of the police squad spoke to Mr Withey after he was identified.
“Our chief was able to speak to him and thank him for his bravery.
“Jay said they are all like family now and plan to get together over the summer,” police said.