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Firefighters free woman who says she was trapped in her van for 5 days due to snowplow

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(Newark Police Department)

Chris Sheldon

pennlive.com

A homeless woman was finally rescued from her van Thursday morning in Newark, N.J., after being trapped inside by snowplows for five days, she told News 12 Jersey.

“When I woke up around 11 o’clock or 12 o’clock at night, I saw I was plowed in and snow everywhere,” the woman told the outlet. “I was blowing the horn to tell them I was in here. But they didn’t get the message, so I’ve been in here ever since.”

She said in the report that she called 911 “multiple times,” but that she was told that “no one could help her” as she was stuck in the van on Lincoln Avenue since Sunday night when a winter storm began burying New Jersey in several feet of snow.

On Friday afternoon, city officials said the delay in the woman’s rescue came because of an error that was made in logging the address she gave dispatchers when she first called them Wednesday afternoon.

“Unfortunately, this woman lives inside her vehicle and was sheltering in place during the snowstorm,” Mayor Ras J. Baraka said in a statement. “When she first contacted police yesterday, there was an error made with logging the correct address.”

“Police officers called her back for the correct address, but received no answer,” the mayor continued. “The next time members of the Department of Public Safety heard from her was at 9:30 this morning, when she contacted the Newark Fire Division. They responded immediately to render aid.”

The statement from the city said she called the Newark Police at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday and told them she was unable to leave her van because it was stuck in the snow and gave an address of 67 Lincoln Park.

That address was incorrectly logged as 67 Lincoln Street by the public safety tele-communicator and when officers arrived, they were unable to find the navy blue minivan, and called her back but received no answer, according to the statement.

“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,” Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said in the 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.”

When she called Newark firefighters at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, they responded six minutes later, located the van, shoveled a path to her driver’s side door and freed her from her icy vehicle, authorities said.

Shortly after firefighters arrived, several men from a nearby residential substance abuse program called CURA came out, helped dig her out and brought her a hot meal, News 12 reported.

“We had no idea she was out here. … We brought food and the residents brought shovels to dig her out,” Christina Mascuch of CURA said in the report. “When someone is in need, they are in need. And no one here clearly is asking questions.”

CURA representatives could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday night.

The woman refused medical attention, as well as help to find a shelter or to reach a family member’s home, the city’s statement said. Firefighters also offered to shovel out her vehicle, but she also refused, they said.

The Newark Office of Homeless Services is working to offer assistance to the woman, city officials said.

(c)2021 The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, Pa.)

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