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Cheektowaga man saves man stranded in car for over 10 hours during blizzard

Stephen Nowicki

Heavy snow, at times blinding. Seventy mile-an-hour winds. White-out conditions.

This is what Stephen Nowicki experienced Dec. 23, the first night of the Buffalo blizzard, on his way to rescue a man he didn’t know, Ashroiful Apu, who was stranded in his car not far from where Nowicki lives.

“I saw a post on the Buffalo subreddit of somebody who said their brother was stuck in the snow. I knew a lot of people were getting into trouble that night," Nowicki said. “I had to do something to help. I figured it wasn’t going to be all too difficult. Come to find out it was."

After waiting to see if anyone had rescued Apu, Nowicki wore his motorcycle helmet to protect him from the snow, packed extra clothes for Apu and suited up out the door at 11 p.m. to walk to the location where Apu had been stranded in his car for over 10 hours.

What would normally be a 15-minute walk turned into almost an hour.

“There was a man who lived about a third of a mile away where he could stay. Looking at him he was not in great condition. So I figured the shortest distance was going to be the easiest. He took a few minutes to get ready in the car and wrapped his head in a blanket because he didn’t have any protection from the wind," Nowicki said.

By the time they made it to Apu’s friend’s house, the blanket was drenched in heavy wet snow.

“As he’s getting comfortable and getting relaxed, I know I can’t stay there that long and I feel water just start dripping extremely quickly down my helmet as soon as I turn outside it’s going to turn to ice just like that," Nowicki said.

Nowicki called his girlfriend to let her know he was on his way, but the snow made it difficult for him to know where he was going.

“I start walking down the street. Houses didn’t seem exactly familiar, but I also couldn’t really see what I was looking at in the first place, so I kind of just brushed it off until I noticed a plot of land that looked like it had a house that was cleared off it. And I thought to myself ... I don’t have that plot on my street," he said.

When Nowicki finally reached home at 1:30 a.m.,he was downtrodden, exhausted and trying to catch his breath.

“When I tried to take my motorcycle helmet off there was ice that essentially locked to my hair and the padding in the motorcycle helmet. It was like ripping hair off my head and I needed my girlfriend to melt the snow off with her hands," Nowicki said.

Samiha Shama, Apu’s niece, said if it weren't for Nowicki, her uncle would be dead. Nowicki said the family wanted to pay him back for saving Apu’s life, but he didn’t do it for that.

"I had the ability to help him and I knew I'd stay safe while doing it," he said. "It just seemed like the right thing to do."

Because of Nowicki, Apu was able to make it home to see his two children, a 3-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl.