BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The family of a Buffalo man who died during the Christmas Blizzard says they plan to sue, Erie County, the City of Buffalo and Kaleida Health in a wrongful death lawsuit.
It’s their claim that local governments were not prepared for the storm and that Kaleida refused to provide medical care.
What happened to Abdul Sharifu is just awful.
He and his wife were pregnant with their son — he died trying to get milk for a neighbor’s baby.
Sharifu was just 26 years old. He had emigrated to Buffalo from Congo in 2017 and was living with his wife in an apartment building in Buffalo’s Fruit Belt neighborhood. When the blizzard was battering Buffalo — his wife, Gloria Mawazo was pregnant with their son.
“Her preference was that he wouldn’t leave her, she’s pregnant with their child and obviously, when you’re late in your pregnancy, there’s times that you think you can go at any point,” said local attorney Brittany Penberthy, who’s representing the family.
But, on the Saturday of the storm — Abdul got in his car, despite the driving ban and went to get milk for a neighbor’s baby.
“He was one that the area residents could rely upon for favors and such and that he was always willing to go above and beyond for his friends and family and such,” Penberthy said.
The family’s attorney says Abdul was found by Samaritans ten hours later near their apartment building. He was in grave condition and was taken to Buffalo General.
“Buffalo General for whatever reason and obviously, we’ll get into that later in litigation, had refused their admittance,” Penberthy said.
But Kaleida Health disputes that and says Abdul was first brought to the hospital’s main lobby at a time when it’s closed. Kaleida says Abdul was then taken across the street to Oishei Children’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“Obviously his wife is going through the grieving process having lost her husband of only a year they were only married a year and obviously bringing into the world a young son without the benefit of a spouse or father,” Penberthy said.
One day before the storm hit — the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning — Erie County held a media briefing — and the City of Buffalo issued a state of emergency.
“Our claims against the county and the city stem from our allegations of poor planning and deficiencies on both the municipal entities in properly advising its residents, including refugees, and those obviously that don’t have the ability [to see], the publications that were made in English only,” Penberthy said.
The family’s attorney adds that Abdul did not know English well enough to know of the severity of the storm. A lawsuit seeking damages against Erie County, the city and Kaleida could come as soon as this summer. The Erie County Attorney’s Office and Kaleida have no comment on this legal action.
Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.