After a motorist stranded in the deadly winter storm in upstate New York found a safe place to get out, he did his best to carry dozens of others as well, in what officials are calling a heroic rescue and that saved lives. effort.
Jay Withey, 27, of Kenmore, New York, made sure the 24 people who were trapped on the side of the road during the brutal storm got out of danger, police said.
The snowstorm stranded Withey in Cheektowaga, just east of Buffalo, on Friday. When he began to run out of gas on Saturday morning, he decided to leave his car and head to Pine Hill School, where he broke a window to get inside.
But he didn’t stay inside long. She was soon out again, looking for other stranded motorists she could direct to school.
“My mission was to keep going out there and catching as many people as I could and keep going,” Withey said. “I just kept walking, and I walked until I cried and couldn’t walk anymore. I was just beaten.”
Inside the school, he opened the kitchen door to gather essentials to help feed the group. She also found the infirmary and collected blankets and water.
Withey said he left the school’s front door unlocked overnight so others could join the group.
They were stuck at the school for about 24 hours, he said.
Once it seemed safe to leave Sunday morning, Withey said, he found a snowplow at the school and helped everyone dig out their cars so they could drive home.
“I just couldn’t ask for more better people to get stuck with,” he said.
But he felt bad about the broken window and tried to fix it on the way out, but no luck. Withey left a note for officers to find, apologizing for the broken glass window and looking for supplies.
“I am so sorry that I broke the school and kitchen window,” he wrote. “I had to do it to save everyone and get them shelter, food and a bathroom.”
He signed it “Merry Christmas, Jay,” but did not give his last name. So when the Cheektowaga Police Department found him, they didn’t know who to thank.
Them aware the note and security footage on social media asking for help identifying the Good Samaritan.
“We watched surveillance video and saw people taking care of people,” the police department said in a statement. “This amazing group of people took care of each other and took care of the building that they sheltered in. We want to identify ‘Jay’ and have him recognized for his actions going above and beyond that saved lives.”
Family and friends who saw the police station knew who the officers were looking for.
“He is a very selfless person and in no way did he do what he did for any kind of recognition,” his cousin Vincent Consiglio said. “That’s how he is. He always helping people.”
Withey said the police chief thanked him and praised him for the way he helped care for others.
Chief Brian Gould said the entire department is grateful for Withey’s actions and wants the community to use his story to help them grieve after the storm.
“We know that because of the actions of many people like Jay, there are many families who were lucky enough to be reunited with their loved ones,” Gould said.
Police said they don’t expect the school to press charges.
The storm is blamed for at least 40 deaths in New York, most of them in Buffalo. Authorities warned that the death toll could rise as the National Guard carries out door-to-door checks.
This Christmas is one Withey won’t forget.
“I hope people realize that it’s important to be kind and do the right thing to help each other,” he said.