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Autopsy finds storm victim Larry Bierl died of hypothermia

Buffalo Rising

Larry Bierl, the homeless man whose body was discovered in an NFTA Metro Bus shelter in Williamsville Thursday, died of hypothermia. His cause of death was determined following an autopsy by the Erie County Medical Examiner. Meanwhile, a fundraiser has been established to honor the memory of Bierl by supporting a not-for-profit agency which assists homeless people.

Bierl's body was found in a shelter at Main Street and Union Road, near I-290. Bierl, 69, who was experiencing homelessness, was well-known in the Williamsville community. He frequented area coffee shops by day but in the evening went off on his own. He would occasionally accept others' purchases of coffee or something to eat but turned down offers for further help.

NFTA Police Chief George Gast, who announced the medica examiner's finding Friday, says there were several confirmed attempts to keep Bierl indoors Wednesday as the polar vortex and blizzard arrived in Western New York.

"Several businesses in the immediate area, Larry was actually in those businesses over the course of Wednesday," said Gast. "I know on two occasions, he was offered lodging for the night, which he declined. On the third occasion, one of the employees actually offered to drive him wherever he wanted to go to get him out of the weather. That offer was also declined."

A makeshift memorial has been set up at the bus shelter where his body was found.

Bierl is one of three people known to have died for reasons related to this week's frigid weather. Two other men died while snow-shoveling and snow-blowing.

Gast says family members were located and notified of his death. A source close to the investigation, who asked to remain unidentified for this story, told WBFO family members are making burial arrangements but have otherwise asked for privacy.

Many in the Williamsville community are soul searching, wondering how they could have made a difference. Kate Glaser, founder of the blog Hope Rises, has launched a fundraising campaign to benefit Friends of Night People, a not-for-profit agency which works directly with local homeless people.

"I think a lot of people don't really understand it because they're not going through it, and we have no right to judge it," Glaser said. "Larry might might not have accepted help but perhaps there was a reason for that. I think we shouldn't focus on the negative, and focus on the positive in being able to do something to give back in his memory."

Friends of Night People offers services including food, clothing, counseling and medical care.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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