DEPEW, N.Y. (WKBW) - Edward Torres, 64, from Elba was killed Tuesday afternoon January 2nd after he was involved in a massive pileup on the NYS Thruway near Exit 49 Depew. The accident happened just before 2 p.m. when wind-swept snow made visibility on the Thruway extremely poor, even though the blacktop was still visible, explained a spokesperson for the NYS Thruway Authority.
So many vehicles were involved that first responders declared it a "Mass Casualty Incident."
The family of Edward Torres told 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly that the pastor, part-time plumber and truck driver was in Buffalo to visit his family and receive Christmas gifts. Torres then left after seeing his 2-year-old granddaughter and was attempting to get to his job when he was killed.
NYS Police say a tractor trailer stopped abruptly in front of Torres' vehicle due to another accident further up the road. The Elba man was unable to stop and crashed into the truck.
Torres' family provided 7 Eyewitness News with the following statement:
Born in Puerto Rico moved to Buffalo, NY (Riverside) when he was 1.
1 of 10 children mostly located in Buffalo, NY
Graduated from Riverside High School
Ed was a full time tractor trailer truck driver, part time plumber and a Pastor. Father of 3 grown children and 2 grand children but he was like a father/uncle/pappa to everyone that knew him.
Ed was a hard working man that loved fiercely. His ability to maintain close relationships with friends and family that distance and time could not separate was incredible. He loved his family, he loved Jesus, he loved well.
He was on his way to work after the holiday and had stopped to see his family before his shift. His work was off the 90 and because of white out conditions lost his life in the accident.
As far as our official feelings on the roads not being closed is this:
Ed was a man full of grace, he didn’t rush to judgment but would be the first person to sacrifice something for the betterment of those around him. He wouldn’t point fingers or place blame. He wasn’t that kind of person and he didn’t raise his family to be that way. An accident is an accident, no man or government is perfect and it’s easy to say what we could have or should have but in the end we believe that nothing is without purpose, nothing is left to chance. Weather is unpredictable and it changes from minute to minute, that’s what living in WNY is like and we all understand those are the eventual risks we take living here. However, we know that’s not how Ed was and that’s not how he’ll be remembered. He wasn’t unpredictable, he was inconsistent, he was honorable, he was good, he was patient and above all things he was loving. "
The NYS Thruway Authority also provided a statement concerning the accident:
· Morning forecast from National Weather Service called for “modest” accumulations.
· 12:59 p.m.: National Weather Service Buffalo issued Blizzard Warning.
· 1:54 p.m.: State Police report accident on I-90, all lanes blocked.
“Following the receipt of the National Weather Service’s issuance of a Blizzard Warning yesterday, Variable-Message Signs (VMS or digital highway signs) were illuminated warning drivers of poor visibility and urged drivers to adjust their speed for the weather conditions. At approximately 1:54 p.m., State Police Troop T reported a multi-vehicle accident at milepost 417.9 eastbound where the pavement was black yet visibility was extremely limited because of wind-blown snow. For safety reasons, all lanes were closed between exits 50 and 48A to ensure emergency vehicles could safely and quickly respond to the scene. At that time, access to I-90 was closed at the Williamsville Toll Barrier, exit 49 (Depew), and 48A (Pembroke) to ensure additional motorists were not able to enter the Thruway. Additionally, VMS was lit in both directions from beyond the Lackawanna Toll Barrier westbound to beyond exit 48 (Batavia) eastbound warning drivers of the closure and to seek alternate routes. Similar messages were posted frequently on the Thruway’s website and social media pages.”
“During the accident investigation, members of the Thruway Authority, State Police and local emergency responders performed welfare checks on motorists as well as provided buses to transport impacted motorists to warming shelters. The Thruway Authority also allowed vehicles to make U-turns to relieve traffic near the accident scene. During this time, access to toll booths was closed to ensure no additional volume was allowed on I-90.”
“The safety of motorists is the Thruway Authority’s highest priority and by deploying numerous state and local resources, crews worked as diligently as possible to clear the accident scene quickly to get traffic flowing again.”