Snow Traps Newark Woman in Van — For 5 Days
NEWARK — Police had trouble finding a 77-year-old woman who was trapped in a snowed-in van for five days.
The woman, who was living in her van, is at least the second victim of this week's storm, which also killed a homeless city man who was found freezing under a pile of snow on Monday. Both incidents happened in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of the city's downtown.
According to the National Weather Service, 16.2 inches of snow fell in the city of Newark.
Mayor Ras Baraka said an emergency dispatcher had provided police with the wrong address after the trapped woman called 911.
Janette Ward told News 12 New Jersey that she fell asleep in her van on Sunday afternoon as snow began to fall. When she woke up, the van was blocked by snow and she couldn't get out or get anyone's attention by blowing the horn.
A 911 call on Thursday finally brought help from the city.
Newark police spokeswoman Catherine Adams referred to the statement from Baraka and Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose when asked about the woman's claims that she had repeatedly called 911.
Baraka said that Ward first called police on Wednesday but the dispatcher wrote down the address as “67 Lincoln Street." When officers responded to that address, they tried calling her phone number but got no answer.
Ward contacted Newark firefighters at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, who responded within six minutes and shoveled her out, according to Baraka.
She declined the firefighters' offer to dig out the entire van or take her to a shelter or to a relative's home. Baraka said the Newark Office of Homeless Services is working with her.
“In light of the woman’s age and the fact that she’s a resident without an address, we combed through our records to pinpoint exactly when this incident was initially reported to us,” Ambrose said in the city's statement. “We regret that human error played a role in delaying our response to the correct address, although we attempted to call her for a correction. I’m grateful that she reached out again today and that this incident didn’t end tragically.”