Widow speaks out about storm-related deaths

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The wife of a man who died during Buffalo’s serious lake effect snow event spoke out about her husband’s death. She said he could be alive today.

Donald Abate was trying to get home to see his wife. He left Batavia’s federal detention center Monday — he thought he was still ahead of the storm. While headed home, though, he got stranded near a car wash in Alden.

Don and Jackie Abate.
Donald and Jackie Abate.

He called AAA for help while still in his vehicle, and he told his family he was expecting to be rescued. But AAA never came. They were turned away by police at one of the barricades.

“He said he was cold and hungry. He said snow was up past the mirrors on his truck. he said he was almost out of gas,” Jackie Abate said. “He couldn’t open the door to clear the tailpipe so he was sitting there with the vehicle off.”

That was the last call Donald made home. His family tried to call, but they were unsuccessful in reaching him.

“You knew something was wrong, deep down in your heart, you knew something was wrong if he didn’t pick up that phone and call,” Abate said.

Donald’s car accumulated 15 feet of snow on top of it in the ditch he was stuck in.

By 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Jackie answered a knock on her door. Police told her they found Donald dead in his car.

In a statement, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said they found Donald by the phone calls he made before he died. They triangulated his position, but they were too late.

“I feel pretty upset, believe me, I’m very disappointed in this whole system,” Jackie said.

Visiting hours for Donald Abate are Wednesday night at the O’Connell Murphy Funeral Home in Buffalo. Visiting hours are from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. His funeral is set for Friday.

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