A Buffalo woman sprang into action after seeing a man trapped in the storm as a powerful storm lashed Western New York with a blinding blizzard in the early hours of Christmas Eve.
Sha’Kyra Aughtry said she was home when she heard someone screaming on the street where she lived. When she looked out the window, she saw a man calling for help in the freezing cold.
Ogletree’s boyfriend carried Joe White, 64, into the house as she blew the ice off his inflamed and blistered hands with a hairdryer and used a “lawn mower” to remove his ring, she said on Facebook Live .
When the Buffalo woman tried to call emergency responders for help, no one came, she said. With no medical background, Aughtry said she became concerned for his safety.
She shared what happened on Facebook and asked for help.
“I’m going crazy because I’m so scared,” she said live. “Since I had him, I’ve started to see how much his body has changed – his body is changing rapidly every hour.”
As the storm buried Buffalo in thick snow, emergency responders were unable to respond to calls for hours over the weekend — with ambulances and rescuers even trapped in the snow, Erie County officials said in a news conference.
At least 31 weather-related deaths have been confirmed in Erie County, New York, including one due to emergency medical services (EMS) delays, according to County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
With no one coming to help, Ogletree said she feared for White’s life.
“I’ve called the National Guard. I’ve called 911. I’ve called everyone — they keep telling me I’m on the list. I don’t want to be on the list,” Aughtry said on her livestream. . “I don’t care about anything else. This man is not going to die here.”
In the end, she said, her plea was answered.
Aughtry posted another livestream on Facebook of her and a group of men taking White to the hospital on Christmas night. “I was in the car with him and some good Samaritans came to help us shovel snow,” she said.
According to Aughtry, one of the men said he saw her first Facebook Live and came over to help.
The livestream showed Ogletree reassuring White in the back of the car on the way to the hospital.
“You’re doing well, Jo,” she said. “You just need to breathe, right?”
White is now recovering in intensive care with fourth-degree frostbite after arriving at the hospital Sunday night, his sister Yvonne White told CNN.
“I hope and pray for the best,” she said.
Yvonne White said it was a “miracle” that her brother, who has developmental disabilities and lived in a group home, remembered her phone number when Aughtry took him in.
White’s employer, Ray Barker, said White was disoriented after leaving his group home during a snowstorm on Christmas Eve morning.
Barker added that White probably thought he needed to go to work, even though he had a day off.
“He’s a mess,” Barker told CNN. “And (Autry) obviously saved his life.”
White’s sister also thanked Ogletree, saying she now feels like family.
“We’re all trying to help each other out, which is amazing,” she told CNN. “Now I feel like I have a sister and three nephews,” she said, referring to Aughtry and her sons.
Barker is the director of programming at the North Park Theater, where White works, and has known him for more than 30 years. White is the theater’s longest-serving employee, having worked there since 1980.
“The theater was really his whole life,” Barker told CNN.
“We were always worried about Joe,” Barker said. “We know he’s currently receiving excellent medical care and we can’t wait for him to be back in theaters.”
The theater began fundraising for Aughtry and White, raising more than $50,000, and the theater paid tribute to Aughtry and her boyfriend, Trent, in the credits.
“Thank you Sha’Kyra and Trent. Get well soon Joe,” it read.