As a powerful storm hit western New York with snowstorm conditions in the early hours of Christmas Eve, a Buffalo woman sprang into action when she saw a man caught in the storm.
Sha’Kyra Autry said she was at home when she heard someone screaming across her street. When he looked out of the window, he saw a man calling for help in the bitter cold.
Augtree’s boyfriend took Joe White, 64, into the house, and he used a hair dryer to melt the ice off her red, blistered hands and a “lawn mower” to remove the rings, he said in a live broadcast on Facebook.
When the Buffalo woman tried to call emergency services for help, none came, she said. And with no experience in healthcare, Autry said he’s concerned for his safety.
She took to Facebook to share what happened and seek help.
“I’m going crazy because I’m scared,” she said on the live broadcast. “I’m starting to see a lot of change in her body from the time I’ve had her; her body has changed exponentially every hour.” Buffalo looks to recover from storm as death toll rises 1:44
As the storm buried Buffalo in a thick layer of snow, emergency services were unable to respond to calls for hours over the weekend, with ambulances and rescue crews also trapped in the snow, officials said at the Erie County press conference.
At least 31 weather-related deaths have been confirmed in New York’s Erie County, including one attributed to a delay in emergency equipment, according to County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
With no one coming to help, Autry said he feared for White’s life.
“I called the National Guard. I called 911. I called everybody, they told me I’m on a list. I don’t want to be on a list,” Augtree said in his live broadcast. “I don’t care about anything else. This man is not going to die here.”
Eventually, he said, his pleas were answered.
Augtree posted another live stream on Facebook of him and a group of men driving White to the hospital on Christmas night. “I’m in the car with him and some good Samaritans came over and cleared our snow,” he said.
According to Autry, one of the men said he saw her first Facebook live stream and came over to help.
The live stream shows Autry reassuring White in the back of the car on the way to the hospital.
“You’re doing an excellent job, Joe,” she said. “You just have to breathe, okay?”
Family says frozen man is recovering in hospital
White’s sister Yvonne White told CNN that White is now in the intensive care unit recovering from fourth-degree frostbite after arriving at the hospital on Sunday night.
He added, “I hope and pray for the best.”
Yvonne White said it was a “miracle” that her older brother, who is developmentally disabled and lives in a group home, remembered her phone number when Autry took him in.
White’s employer, Ray Barker, said White became disoriented after leaving his group home on Christmas morning during a snowstorm.
Barker said White may have thought he needed to go to work even though he had the day off.
“I was in trouble,” Barker told CNN. “And (Autry) obviously saved his life.”
White’s sister was also grateful to Augtree, who she says now feels like family.
“We were all trying to help each other and it was wonderful,” he told CNN. “And now I feel like I have a sister and three nephews,” she said, referring to Augtree and her children.
Barker is the programming director of the North Park Theatre, where White works, and has known him for more than 30 years. White is the longest serving employee of the theatre, having worked there since 1980.
“Theatre really is his whole life,” Barker told CNN.
“We’re very concerned about Joe,” Barker said. “We know he is receiving good medical care at this time and we can’t wait for him to return to theatre.”
The theater began fundraising for Autry and White, which together raised over $50,000. The theater honored Autry and her boyfriend, Trent, with a message on its marquee.
“Thanks Shakira and Trent. Get well soon, Joe,” he says.