'I had to do it to save everyone:' Letter solves school smashed window mystery - and reveals a snowstorm hero

A man, who pulled multiple people from vehicles and sheltered them in a nearby school during a deadly blizzard in New York, has been branded "a hero".

Police said Jay Withey from the Buffalo suburb of Tonawanda broke a window of the school to allow another 10 people and two dogs inside for warmth and safety.

The north and west of New York state was brought to a three-day standstill after up to four feet of snow - and drifts piling even higher - hit the region on 23 December, bringing total white-out conditions.

While emergency services were stretched to their limits and 24-7 power workers struggled to restore electricity, images have emerged from surveillance cameras of a man smashing a window at the school and helping people inside.

It was Mr Withey, who had left a handwritten note.

In it, he apologised for the damage to the window and explained blizzard conditions outside had left multiple people trapped in their vehicles.

With temperatures at around 1F (-17C, but feeling like -29C with wind chill), many of the 39 people who died, had done so by being left in their cars with no heat.

"Got stuck at 8pm Friday and slept in my truck with two strangers, just trying not to die," the note read.

"There were seven elderly people also stuck and out of fuel. I had to do it [break the window] to save everyone and get them shelter and food and a bathroom. Merry Christmas, Jay."

Read more:
Questions asked about authorities' response to deadly US storm
Stranded in the town Christmas (almost) forgot

Police said were it not for the note left inside the school, they may not have known anyone had been inside, as officers initially thought the window had been broken by wind.

After the school's surveillance cameras revealed a group of people - and two dogs - had sheltered inside the school, police published the images and asked for help identifying "Jay".

A statement from the force said: "We watched the video surveillance and witnessed people taking care of people.

"There was a freezer full of food, but no one touched it. They only ate what was necessary to stay alive.

"They used the gym for the kids to play and pulled the smart boards out of the classrooms to watch the news for updates.

"When they were finally able to leave safely, you never would have known anyone was there.

"This group of amazing people took care of each other and the building they found shelter in."

'Now like family'

They said no one would be prosecuted for the damage.

After Mr Withey was identified, the chief of the police team spoke to him.

"Our chief was able to speak to him and express our gratitude for his heroic actions.

"Jay said they are all now like family and planning a SUMMER get together," police said.