Police believe a 76-year-old Schoharie County man spent more than a week trapped in his home with no heat before being rescued Tuesday afternoon.
A concerned citizen called the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Department to report that the man living on Mud Lake Road in Summit might need assistance, Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond said.
When rescuers arrived, they found the home’s entrance blocked by mounds of snow and no indication anyone had been around for days.
The Richmondville Fire Department and Summit Rescue Squad went to the scene, then brought the man to Cobleskill Regional Hospital. He was suffering from hypothermia, frostbite and dehydration. The sheriff said the man’s prognosis is unclear.
“I hope he survives,” Desmond said.
The situation highlights the importance of checking on elderly neighbors, Desmond said, especially during the winter.
Desmond said he can only guess how long the man was trapped in the house, but by the look of the snow it was probably 10 days.
Mother Nature dumped about 13.5 inches of snow on the town of Summit during the last storm, Feb. 13–14, following 13.5 inches a week earlier, according to the National Weather Service.
Desmond said the man’s neighbor called to check on him but he “wasn’t making any sense.” The line disconnected and the neighbor kept calling back but couldn’t reach the victim again, so he called the Sheriff’s Department, Desmond said.
Schoharie County Office for the Aging Director Nancy Dingee said the case is unprecedented in her recollection.
“It’s awful,” she added.
It’s been a harsh winter, Dingee said, evidenced by an increase in requests for help through the Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP.
There were 2,003 Schoharie County families requesting help under the HEAP program in November and 2,311 in December, according to the website of the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
But having assistance available doesn’t necessarily mean people will use it, Dingee said.
People can receive an initial HEAP benefit to help pay for heating fuel and, afterward, an emergency benefit is available, she said. But beyond those two forms of help, people have to contact Social Services to apply for temporary assistance. “Some people are reluctant to do that,” Dingee said.
The Office for the Aging fields phone calls from out-of-town family members and calls the Sheriff’s Department if there’s a need to check on people, Dingee said.
She urged people to check on elderly neighbors or acquaintances.
“We will partner with organizations to try to get assistance to people,” Dingee said.