A Buffalo city employee was killed Wednesday while clearing the record snowfall still plaguing the area four days after it was dumped.
The unidentified worker was struck by a high lift truck that was dropping a load of snow in a dump truck while traveling in reverse at 11:15 a.m. on McKinley Parkway in South Buffalo, Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said at a press conference.
The worker, who had “decades” of field experience, died at the scene.
“This is an individual that is well known to all of us, someone who has worked in city government as I indicated for decades,” Mayor Byron Brown said. “Someone with a wealth of experience who has given much to city service over those decades.”
The worker’s identity is being withheld pending family notification.
The individual driving the high loader was a third-party contractor that was retained by the city to help remove the nearly 8 feet of snow dumped on the city Nov. 19.
The driver is “in shock,” but is fully cooperating with the city’s investigation, Brown said.
The worker’s death marks the fifth since the storm walloped the city, The Buffalo News reported. Three people have died from cardiac events after shoveling show and a 74-year-old man who crashed his car during the storm Friday was found dead Tuesday.
Buffalo is suspending snow removal efforts through Friday morning in light of the tragic death.
“We know that there is tremendous grief in the workforce right now. We know that people have been working 16-, 18-hour shifts, working on very little sleep,” Brown said.
City officials did not say whether sleep deprivation may be linked to the accident, but are looking at “all aspects of the investigation.”
“Clearly in a snowstorm like this where it started snowing on Thursday and didn’t end until Sunday, people are working around the clock. People are working long hours,” Brown said.
On Wednesday, there were 180 pieces of heavy equipment hauling snow out of South Buffalo, the mayor said. Police had been working traffic control to protect motorists, pedestrians and workers from the large equipment at the time of the worker’s death.
The case is still under investigation and has been referred to the district attorney’s office. Grief counseling is being offered to city workers affected by the tragedy.