BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A veteran City of Buffalo employee was killed Wednesday in an accident during snow removal efforts on McKinley Parkway in South Buffalo, Mayor Byron Brown said.
The name of the male worker was not released. Brown said his family is still being notified.
“We are heartbroken,” Brown said. “We are in pain right now having suffered this loss.”
Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said the incident happened when a high-loader truck was dumping snow into a dump truck around 11:15 a.m. It appeared the high-loader went in reverse and fatally struck the worker, who was declared dead on scene.
“A high loader truck was dumping a load of snow into one of the dump trucks and it appears at this point in the investigation that while in reverse, fatally struck the worker,” Commissioner Gramaglia said. “These are always tough scenes and it’s compounded when it is a friend and when the person is well known to those who are on scene investigating the accident.”
The deceased employee was an experienced member of the city team with decades on the job, Brown said.
Due to the tragedy, snow-removal efforts will pause, Brown said. They are scheduled to resume at 7 a.m. on Friday.
“This is a very painful thing to have to report. … Our hearts, our thoughts, our prayers go out to the family members of our lost co-worker,” Brown said. “This is an individual that is well-known to all of us, someone who has worked in city government for decades, someone with a wealth of experience who has given much to city service over those decades.”
“The team of people within our department are those who are caring for the community and helping our community and as part of that this accident and tragedy happened today,” Department of Public Works Commissioner Nate Marton said.
The vehicle was operated by a third-party contractor who had been hired by the city to help with snow-removal efforts after a major lake-effect storm dumped feet of snow on the region, Brown said. The crews were on pace to finish clearing roads on Wednesday. Now, they hope to finish plowing on Friday.
“We know that people have been working 16, 18 hour shifts, working on very little sleep,” Brown said.
The city does not believe exhaustion was a cause of the crash. Flags across the city will fly at half staff to honor a person who is remembered for dedication to public service.
The driver of the high-lift is in shock, Brown said, but is fully cooperating with investigators. The accident investigation unit of the Buffalo Police Department remained on scene as of 1:45 p.m.
“We are still piecing together what occurred,” Brown said. “This is a situation where our workers are working continuously around the clock with a passion to open up communities for our residents, for their neighbors. The situation is one where we have had police during this operation in South Buffalo, Kaisertown and Lovejoy doing traffic control to protect motorists, pedestrians and workers because of the huge numbers of equipment out here working. Today alone, 180 pieces of heavy equipment hauling snow out of South Buffalo.”
As a result of the accident, no vehicular traffic was allowed on McKinley Parkway between Olcott Avenue and Tifft Street, but the road has since reopened.
This is a developing story, check back for updates.