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Family Files Wrongful Death Suit Against City For Blizzard Death

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/CBS 2) - It took emergency crews hours to reach an elderly woman because of the blizzard that paralyzed roads, and she died while waiting for help.

Now, her family wants the city to pay, filing a wrongful death lawsuit, reports CBS 2's Pablo Guzman.

In the immediate aftermath of the blizzard, Laura Freeman said she had to watch her 75-year-old mother die in front of her. For nearly three hours after the storm, Freeman says, the 911 system failed.

"She said, 'Laura, if I don't get to speak to you again, goodbye Laura,'" Freeman said. "I don't know why she didn't say, 'I love you.'"


WCBS 880 Reporter Marla Diamond gets details from the family.

Freeman knows her mother loved her, but she still feels guilt, second-guessing her decision to run outside to try to stop strangers with cell phones.

"Maybe I should've held her while she died, but instead I ran out," Freeman said. "It kills me because I go, 'why did I run out?' – because it really didn't make a difference."

Flanked by Freeman and her brothers, Jim and John, the Freeman family attorney, Sanford Rubinstein, filed a $20 million claim Wednesday against the city.

"Yvonne Freeman's daughter was unable to reach a 911 operator as her mother gasped for breath," Rubinstein said. "All she got on the other side of the phone was a recorded message, and a buzzing tone that sounded like a fax machine."

New York City's Law Department released only the following brief statement: "This involves a tragic situation, and we'll await the legal papers."

Freeman said she's bringing the suit against the city so a similar tragedy doesn't happen to anyone else.

Freeman said the house in Corona, Queens where she lived with her mother is too empty now, with too many reminders of that tragic day.

The claim is the first of what's expected to be many blizzard-related wrongful death suits against the city.

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