A winter storm wreaking havoc across the nation has claimed yet another victim. Blizzard 2016, as it has been dubbed, has ushered in severe weather conditions that include snow, ice, and high winds, and it has claimed multiple lives across multiple states. A 44-year-old U.S. Capitol police officer is its latest victim. Officer Vernon J. Alston collapsed outside of his home in Magnolia, a suburb near Dover Air Force Base yesterday after shoveling snow for an hour.
A spokesperson for the office of the chief of police confirmed the cause of death as a heart attack, according to Yahoo News.
Officer Alston’s death is just one of two dozen people reported who have died this weekend just in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast region alone. The Inquisitr earlier reported the death of a Georgia postal worker who died as a result of a tree weakened by the high winds of the winter storm falling on his postal vehicle.
Specifically, Alston was one of several D.C. residents reported to have died from shoveling snow from the storm, and at least two of these deaths occurred in Maryland. Death from shoveling in this type of weather has become such a frequent occurrence that police and rescue workers repeatedly warn the population about the physical stresses associated with it.
The victim’s wife, Nicole Alston, 42, told The Washington Post that her husband was helping their neighbors shovel snow that day. He came in the house around noon to take a break and went into the garage. She heard him scream her name and when she reached him he had already collapsed. She said that when she got to him that he was “pretty much gone.” So much snow was still so heavily packed around the house that emergency workers had to shovel a path to the house through snow banks and a tow truck had to pull the ambulance so that it could reach the street. He was taken to Kent County Hospital in Dover, Delaware, where he was later pronounced dead around 2 p.m.
Alston was a 19-year veteran officer of the Capitol police force and most recently was assigned to the House Division. His primary duties included patrolling Capitol grounds, residential neighborhoods surrounding the Capitol and various buildings that included House and Senate offices. Every day he commuted 90 miles each way to work and back.
Many dignitaries spoke fondly of him.
Our prayers are with U.S. Capitol Police Officer Vernon Alston and his fellow officers, who are truly our finest. https://t.co/zThIbnfmrs— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) January 24, 2016
Senator Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced his death in a statement.
“I’m saddened to learn that the U.S. Capitol Police has lost one of our own over the weekend as a result of the storm. For twenty years Officer Vernon Alston was a fixture on the Capitol grounds while keeping the community safe. I am always grateful for the dedication and sacrifice of the Capitol Police force and Officer Alston was an exemplar of that. My thoughts are with Officer Alston’s family during this difficult time.”
Chief Kim Dine of the Capitol Police issued an official statement describing his death as a “tragic loss” for both his family and the police force.
“Officer Alston was someone who loved his job, and his loss leaves a huge void in the hearts of all of the men and women of the Capitol Police.”
His wife Nicole summed up his life and character.
“He was the type of man who wanted to help people. In his mind, he was a superhero. He would help you, but he was modest about it. That’s how he lived his life: being an officer allowed him to come to their rescue.”
“He was a very genuine man. People looked at him as a counselor. People came to him for advice. He had a genuine love for people.”
At the time of his passing, Officer Alston and his wife had been married for seven years. He leaves to mourn his memory a son and daughter from a previous marriage, a stepdaughter, and a three-year-old from his current marriage.
[Image via AP Photo/Peter Morgan]