A Buffalo woman was found dead after being trapped in her vehicle for several hours during the monster snowstorm of 2022, but her family says she could’ve been saved if city officials did more.
Anndel Taylor, a 22-year-old nursing student who moved to upstate New York to care for her ailing father, was one of at least 50 people killed in the country in what Gov. Kathy Hochul dubbed “the blizzard of the century,” according to WSOC-TV.
“Me and my family are in need of help burying my stepdaughter Anndel. She was a beautiful young spirit and was going to college for business and CNA,” Lasheena Smith, Taylor’s stepmother, said in an online fundraiser. “She moved to Buffalo to better her life.”
While driving home from work from a hospital in Buffalo on Dec. 23, she got trapped in her car, the New York Post reports. After being isolated in her vehicle for hours, she recorded videos and sent them to her sisters in North Carolina about her ordeal. The family believes she was trapped for 18 hours before being discovered on the road in the snow-covered car on Christmas Eve.
One of Taylor’s sisters, Tomeshia “Tommie” Brown, posted the last video the victim sent on social media on Christmas Eve to solicit people to help find the trapped woman.
Tommie wrote on her Facebook that she didn’t know “anybody in Buffalo, NY,” and that she felt exhausted trying to locate help for her sister.
“It’s technically been a whole 24 hours, and it’s still snowing the same!!!” she said, “Sh– not feeling right!”
Tommie wrote because the family lived in a different state, they felt helpless.
Taylor’s mother, Wanda Brown Steele, remembered, “She called 911, and she was waiting for them.”
Shawnequa Brown, also Taylor’s sister, recalled one of the last conversations she had with Tommie, “She was telling my sister that she was scared.”
She also said no one believed the storm would get as bad as it did.
“I don’t know if any of us really knew how serious it was, we didn’t see the news, we didn’t really know what was going on in Buffalo,” Shawnequa said.
According to her mother, Taylor communicated with the sisters in a family group chat and said she was going to sleep for a while, and when she woke up, she would try to walk to safety if, by that time, no one had arrived.
The following day, the sisters checked in again. “We texted her in the group to ask, ‘Are you OK?'” Brown said. They got nervous when she did not respond.
“Maybe two hours later, my sister tracked her phone,” Brown said. “She [Taylor] must’ve shared her location with my sister. And it showed that she was still outside.”
Unfortunately, by the time someone got to her, it was too late. Taylor’s family members said they all called the authorities as well, but they got the runaround.
“They just kept telling her they would try to get to her, they would try to get to her,” Taylor’s stepmother, Smith said.
On Monday, Dec. 26, as the family wondered how the state was challenged by the storm and did not have adequate emergency vehicles to help those in crisis, New York’s Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said some victims died as emergency responders experienced storm-related delays.
In an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow on “CNN This Morning” on Monday, Poloncarz expanded on his remarks sharing that two-thirds of the equipment in the county’s inventory was dispatched to help clear snow during the height of the storm got stuck.
He added, after speaking to a historian associated with the Buggalo Fire Department, it was the first time in the county’s history that its emergency response system personnel could not respond to distress calls because weather conditions were just that bad.
On Tuesday, Dec. 27, Erie County officials restored its emergency response service and are begging people to adhere to Buffalo’s travel ban, issued the evening Taylor got trapped, and stay off the roads.
Brown Steele was able to locate and alert some of Taylor’s relatives and asked them to go search for her. Once they arrived, they said they saw the woman’s car but did not see her inside.
“I put the info on a private Facebook page called Buffalo Blizzard 2022 and asked for help,” Tommie Brown said.
The desperate sister shared the address of the tracked phone in the group with her contact information. Later, she received a phone call from a stranger, who said he found Taylor and “checked her pulse and there was no pulse.”
“I really didn’t believe it,” the sister said. “It was like a piercing feeling in my stomach, a pain I’ve never felt before.”
Taylor’s mother revealed, “They busted open the window and seen that she was in there.”
“The car was running, and the snow was still coming, so it blocked the pipes, the exhaust pipe,” she explained as she talked about her daughter possibly dying from carbon monoxide. “Then, after the car cut off, that’s when she iced up.”
Taylor’s body was not moved until the following day, CNN reports. A woman sent the victim’s sister a Facebook message informing her that she found the car and Taylor’s body. She waited until Taylor’s relatives arrived, and they transported the victim to the hospital.
“My sons and great citizens of Buffalo brought her body to the hospital themselves after two days of her body being in that car freezing,” Smith said.
CNN reports that the family in Charlotte heard back from authorities on Monday evening after Taylor’s family in Buffalo had already taken her to the hospital.
Taylor was born in Buffalo but moved to Charlotte when she was 2. Her return to the town of her birth was not supposed to end like this. The sister said Taylor still has gifts under the Christmas tree.
Instead of preparing for New Year’s Eve celebrations, her mother is working on the family’s next moves.
“We’re trying to get her here — because I want her here with me,” said the mother, who lives in Charlotte.
Taylor’s family has launched online fundraisers to help transport the woman’s body back to North Carolina.
Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles offered her deepest condolences to Taylor’s family and friends in a statement.
“Anndel was taken from this world far too soon, and words cannot begin to express the heartache and pain her loved ones feel during this difficult time,” Lyles’ statement reads. “This was a devastating storm that brought tremendous tragedy, and our community here in Charlotte mourns with her family.”