Family of dead Buffalo winter storm victim Anndel Taylor blasts city officials
The stepmother of a Buffalo nurse who perished in the historic winter storm this weekend said Tuesday that the woman would still be alive if officials were better prepared.
Laneesha Smith told The Post that 22-year-old Anndel Taylor — one of more than 30 people who died in the storm — was just minutes away from home when she became stuck in the snow and should have been saved.
“They said they were prepared for this storm but they were not prepared for this storm,” Smith said. “So many lives probably could have been saved if they put the travel ban in the night before.”
The Charlotte, North Carolina native was found in the car without a pulse on Saturday and family members had to retrieve her body themselves on Sunday night after responders failed to reach her.
Smith said that after Taylor had called them and told them she was stuck on Friday afternoon, she and her son tried to dig out their vehicles to go and get her.
“We just could not dig it out,” Smith said of the snowfall. “It was like as soon as we dig one spot out, the next spot is just covered.”
Meanwhile, Smith said Taylor futilely called 911 multiple times: “They just kept telling her they would try to get to her, they would try to get to her.”
Taylor’s family members were calling anybody and everybody they could to try to get to her. But nobody was available to help.
Family members believe she died of carbon monoxide poisoning after snow piled above her exhaust pipe.
Taylor was scheduled to work 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday at Absolut Care of Aurora Park in neighboring East Aurora where she was training to be a nurse, Smith said.
She left work 20 minutes before her shift ended to try and beat the storm, but it had already dumped considerable amounts of snow on the roads, paralyzing traffic. A driving ban had been issued shortly before 9 a.m.— just 41 minutes before the snow began rapidly falling into the region and in the middle of Taylor’s shift at the hospital.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Thursday that a state of emergency would take effect for the entire state beginning at 6 a.m. Friday in preparation for the storm that walloped the Northeast over the holiday weekend.
As Western New York begins to thaw, local and state officials have been taking heat for their handling of the deadly storm, from issuing the travel ban way too late, which left many motorists like Taylor stranded, to failing to call in the National Guard until Saturday.
A top Erie County official admitted Tuesday that authorities could have “absolutely’’ done a better job handling the upstate weekend blizzard.
“We were calling, her mother was calling, her sisters I’m sure were calling, my son was calling. They had multiple calls from everyone who knew, calling the police and 911,” she said. “They had a number up for the National Guard – that number wasn’t working. We were calling all of the fire stations in the area — everything in the area where she was so maybe somebody would go out and try to help her.
“Nothing. Nothing. Everybody saying they’re gonna do, they’re gonna do it, they’re gonna check, oh we’ll get around to it, we’ll get around to it, we’ll get around to it — They never got around to it” Smith said.
Smith said they last heard from Taylor shortly after midnight on Christmas Eve, when she seemed to be doing well.
“She said she was OK. She still had a half a tank of gas so she was going to run the car for a little while and turn it off and then on again,” Smith said. Taylor said she was going to take a nap, but never called back in the morning and wasn’t answering her phone.
Still on Saturday, responders were unable to get to Taylor despite the pleas of her relatives, her stepmother said.
Up to two-thirds of Erie County’s emergency vehicles were still useless on Saturday, due to abandoned and stalled cars clogging the streets, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said at the time.
Erie County Sheriff John Garcia told reporters Tuesday that “zero visibility’’ kept many emergency crews off the road during the height of “the blizzard of the century.”
“When we were told that we were going to have a generational storm when we heard terms such as bomb cyclone, this is something that we’re used to in western New York, in Buffalo and Erie County,’’ Sheriff John Garcia told reporters Tuesday.
“But I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he added.
Smith said she has videos of Taylor’s car stuck in the middle of the street as plows and police pass her by “the whole day Saturday.”
“People that we were calling to check on her, were just passing her. She could have been alive in that car and they were just passing her,” Smith said.
Smith was finally found unconscious by a “good Samaritan” who was walking around the neighborhood checking in on residences and drivers, Smith said.
The man saw her leg up on the car’s dashboard, but couldn’t see through the tinted windows in the front, he told Smith, she said. He smashed through the front windshield and found Taylor without a pulse. He ran inside his house and called 911. But by the next day, no one had come to retrieve her.
“He waited for the police to come and then the next morning on Sunday he called me [and said] ‘I don’t know if you guys have been calling but I’ve been calling and the body’s still here,’” Smith said.
“And that’s when my son said ‘Oh, no. Not another day.’ And we sent messages out to people to see who could help us get out and the good citizens of Buffalo came with my son and my brother and took him to the body.”
The two family members dropped Taylor’s body off at Erie County Medical Center themselves. They are still waiting for an official cause of death.
Taylor moved to Buffalo from Charlotte in 2020 just after she turned 21, Smith said. She and her brother planned on moving in together and starting a business, which they had always dreamed about doing, she said.
She also helped take care of her ailing father.
“She was like a light, She was a rare person. She was loyal, helpful, would give you the shirt off her back,” Smith said. “She never gave up, she was a fighter …. She’s truly be missed.
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