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Three deaths reported in Blizzard of '19

Buffalo Rising

For several days before this storm blew its way into town, Erie County officials were warning people to be careful in the expected bitter cold, strong winds and heavy snow. On Thursday, they announced three deaths.

"We have seen three potentially storm-related deaths in Erie County, just in the past 24 hours," Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said at a Thursday briefing. "So this is very sad and also especially because they were preventible, if they are storm-related. Erie County residents just have to remember that it's still really cold out."

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he could not be too open identifying two of the dead. However, the most visible death was a homeless man found frozen in a Metro Bus stop by Amherst Police in the middle of the Village of Williamsville. The man was known to many as Larry.

"We don't know the full extent of what happened with this gentleman who was found in Williamsville, whether he died of other causes or actually did freeze to death," Poloncarz said. "The Homeless Alliance along with others in this community will go out in the worst part of the storms to find individuals where they believe they may be and bring them in."

Public officials and private citizens apparently tried to help him move from homeless over the decades, but he didn't want to. The cause of death will not be known until after the autopsy and that has been delayed because he was frozen.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Poloncarz said there were two other deaths.

"We talked about this, over and over and over, but there were two other deaths, both males of senior age," Poloncarz said. "One who was snowblowing and was found deceased with the snowblower running, and another individual who was shoveling who was found deceased. Probably, both of them were preventible deaths."

Poloncarz told an afternoon briefing Thursday he could not identify the two men or exactly where their bodies were found before being taken to the Medical Examiner's facility to determine causes of death.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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