Niagara Gazette

January 26, 2013

Lockport woman found barely alive in snow later dies at hospital

INVESTIGATION: Woman found barely alive in snow later dies at hospital.

BY JOHN J. HOPKINS
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — Police are investigating the events that led to the death of a city woman who died Saturday morning a few hours after she was found lying in a snowbank along Davison Road.

The woman was discovered in front of the old Social Services building about 6:20 a.m. by a man walking his dog.

"A resident of the area thought he heard someone moaning and after he took a look he saw a person down," said Detective Capt. Rick Podgers. "He ran home and called 911."

City police and firefighters arrived and found the woman was barely alive. She was brought to Eastern Niagara Hospital - Lockport. Police said she died at the hospital before noon.

Police have not released the woman's name, but said she is married with two children. Her home is located less than a fifth of a mile from where she was found.

Her death is being treated as an unattended death, said Podgers. According to police, the woman was last seen around 10 or 10:30 p.m. Friday at ENH- Lockport, where she had gone to visit a sick friend.

"We're trying to establish what had been going on since that time," said Lockport Police Chief Lawrence Eggert.

Police say the woman's body temperature was "very low" and it appears that she had been outside for a long period of time. Temperatures overnight were in the single digits across most of the region.

"Her body temperature was extremely low but there were still signs of life," Podgers said. "It was a heroic effort by the hospital staff, trying to save her. They were trying to bring her body temperature up."

Although the woman was still alive, she was not able to communicate with emergency personnel, said Podgers.

Podgers said there was "no outward sign of trauma" on the woman. The only thing that appears suspicious, he added, is that she was found outside in the middle of winter.

According to Podgers, doctors at the emergency room saw no signs of foul play. "They can't come to a conclusion on the cause of her death," he said adding, "that's a long time for anyone to be outside."

Eggert said some of the woman's personal items such as jewelry and money were found at the scene. Police took pictures of the area where she was found and analyzed evidence, he added.

"There's really nothing suspicious around the area where she was found," Podgers said.

Photos of the scene show plenty of footsteps, but Podgers noted that the area is popular with people walking their dogs or just out on a walk themselves. There were no new footsteps in the freshly-fallen snow, he said.

An autopsy will be performed Monday morning at Erie County Medical Center. Police do not anticipate releasing the woman's name until after the autopsy is finished.