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News carriers rescue elderly customer on ground in record-low cold

Duaine and Michelle Miller of Williamsville have been loyal Buffalo News carriers for the past five years, but early Monday they played the role of rescuers.

It was around 6:45 a.m., still dark, when the husband and wife team were on their route along Mill Street in the village — Michelle behind the wheel of their Chevy HHR, Duaine in the backseat folding and bagging newspapers.

As the couple pulled into a condominium complex, Duaine jumped out of the vehicle to continue their deliveries when he spotted something on the ground near the door of his next stop. It looked like a person.

He ran over and noticed it was one of their customers, James Forman, 80, face down in the snow. There was a set of keys on the walkway and a cellphone nearby. Forman was dressed in a shirt and tie and jacket, said Duaine, who remembered that the tie had frozen.

“Call 9-1-1,” Duaine yelled to Michelle.

“Help me,” Forman said to Duaine.

Duaine, who related the incident to a reporter on Tuesday, got Forman to his feet and Michelle moved their vehicle closer so they could place him in the back seat. Duaine, 44, rubbed the man’s hands and chest to warm him, while Michelle, 46, grabbed some coats and placed them on top of Forman.

Monday set a record-low temperature for New Year's Day and Forman was frigid, Michelle said.

Paramedics responded a few minutes later and took Forman to Erie County Medical Center, where he was recuperating Tuesday. His condition was not immediately available.

There was some discrepancy over how long Forman was outside.

Forman indicated to the Millers that he had slipped while heading out the door Sunday evening and spent the night outdoors, which a family member confirmed.

"He was actually outside all night long," said one relative, who asked not to be named. "He was on his way out for dinner on New Year's Eve when he slipped and fell."

That was around 7:15 p.m. Sunday.

The family said it's a miracle Forman, a stock broker, survived the cold overnight temperatures, which reached -4 degrees early Monday. Forman doesn't recall much of what happened after the fall, the relative said.

Doctors and nurses, however, speculated his time exposed to the cold was much less, Amherst Assistant Police Chief Charles Cohen told The News on Tuesday.

“Their best guess is he was probably outside for one to two hours, so not overnight like initially thought,” Cohen said.

There was no foul play.

The family - which didn't want to get into details of Forman's injuries -  is grateful to the Millers for what they did.

"We owe them his life," the family member said. "It would be a very different story if they didn't show up when they did."

Their district manager, too, thought the couple deserved some credit.

“Duaine and Michelle are just awesome people,” said Joan Portman, the Miller’s district manager. “They just do a great job between the two of them. They have three routes. They never complain and they’re always on time. He even called me on their five-year anniversary and said, ‘Thank you so much for allowing us to do this.’ ”

The News' carriers have helped others in a pinch — drivers in a ditch on the Youngmann Expressway, a disoriented man walking during a snowstorm — but nothing like Monday.

In fact, the couple's actions on Monday help wrap up their newspaper careers.

The Millers, who met in New Mexico before moving back to Buffalo to be near Michelle’s family, are leaving the job Jan. 14. They'll head to Arizona, where Michelle got a job with child protective services.

Delivering newspapers has been challenging — up at 1 a.m., no days off, battling inclement weather — but they have been grateful for the job and it has allowed Duaine to continue his education at SUNY Buffalo State.

They stopped by the hospital Monday to check on Forman, who thanked them.

“I’m a Rasta,” said Duaine, referring to the Rastafarian faith. “We’re all about peace and loving. I wouldn’t have been human if I didn’t stop to help.”

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