Heroic ‘Merry Christmas Jay’ who saved strangers during brutal Buffalo storm identified

The Buffalo man dubbed “Merry Christmas Jay” who helped get strangers to safety during the city’s severe winter storm has finally been identified.

Jay Withey, 27, helped rescue people who had become buried in their cars and broke into a nearby school to give them somewhere to shelter from the dangerous elements.

Police initially dubbed him “Merry Christmas Jay” after he reportedly spent last Friday evening in a truck in the town of Cheektowaga outside of Buffalo and then spent the next morning helping people out of cars that were buried in the snow and getting them shelter.

After his truck became stranded, he even trekked from house to house looking for anyone who might provide him with shelter for the evening but was ultimately unsuccessful, he told WBEN.

“It’s the only time in my life I actually thought I was going to die,” he said.

He said that he and a group of strangers had to sleep in his truck overnight to survive.

On Christmas Eve, his truck ran out of gas, forcing the group to seek shelter elsewhere. That’s when he noticed Pine Hill Primary Center, a local school.

“Off to the left, I could see there was a school about 600-700 feet away from us. I knew the power would be on, there would be heat in there and I was guaranteeing there would be food in there,” he said.

He and his crew broke into the school through a window, which he later repaired with duct tape and cardboard. He also used the school’s snow blower to clear the cars from his group that had been buried in the snow.

He then left a note apologising for breaking into and damaging the school building, explaining that it was a place where people who had been stranded outside could get shelter, sustenance, and access to a bathroom. He signed the note, “Jay”.

“To whomever it may concern, I’m terribly sorry about breaking the school window and for breaking in the kitchen,” the note stated.

“Got stuck at 8pm Friday and slept in my truck with two strangers just trying not to die. There were seven elderly people also stuck and out of fuel. I had to do it to save everyone and get them shelter and food and a bathroom. Merry Christmas Jay.”

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Police sought to identify Mr Withey to thank him for his heroic actions, and asked the community for assistance identifying him using security footage taken from the school.

“Do you recognize “Merry Christmas Jay”? He pulled people from cars & sheltered them in a nearby school,” the Cheektowaga police department wrote in a tweet.

“He left a note apologizing for the damage & use of the snow blower he used to make a path to the school. We want to thank ‘Jay’ for his heroic actions that saved people’s lives.”

On Friday police announced they had identified “Merry Christmas Jay.”

“We identified the amazing Jay with the help of his friends and family! Our chief was able to meet with him and express our gratitude for his heroic actions,” the Cheektowaga police department wrote in a tweet.

The winter storm had devastating consequences in Western New York, where 37 people have died in Erie County since the storm’s onset.