ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — A woman with a disability brought on by cancer says she and other members of her support group were unfairly treated at this past weekend's Buffalo Bills preseason game.
The issue, she says, is not so much with the Bills but with members of the Erie County Sheriff's Office who patrol outside the stadium on game day.
Her complaint has reached the desk of Erie County Sheriff John Garcia, who told 2 On Your Side on Wednesday afternoon that he finds her account of events "troubling" and vowed to investigate matters.
Brittany Carey is a member of Kaely's Kindness Foundation, which she described as a support group for young women who are current cancer patients and survivors of the disease.
"The members of the group become like members of our own family," she said.
'We couldn't believe it'
Through the generosity of a local company, the ladies were treated to tickets, which allowed them to enjoy Saturday's game from inside a suite, and Carey says members of the group have enjoyed their outings at Bills games previously.
She and Sydney Kresconko, another member of the group which attended the game, both said that they usually arrive in a limo-bus that drops them off at a stadium gate.
"Typically, we just get driven right up to the gate and get dropped off. And then the bus leaves, and then comes back at the end of the third quarter to pick us up," Carey said.
According to both, their limo-bus pulled into the entrance for Lot-1 on Big Tree Road prior to Saturday's contest.
Carey says that after a parking attendant initially waved the bus through, an Erie County Sheriff's Deputy then stopped it, preventing it from going any further.
"The driver tried to explain that he wanted to go in, just to drop us off and then leave, but the deputy wouldn't let him," Carey recalled.
The Bills have a policy stating, "Any bus or limo that shows up on the day of the game without an advanced purchase permit will be turned away."
However, though Carey was uncertain if the limo-bus driver had a pass, Kresconko believes he did.
What became clear, though, was that to get to the stadium members of the group, including one who was in a wheelchair, would have to hike the nearly half-mile distance to the stadium from where they say a deputy ordered the driver to discharge them. They would then have to walk back to that spot near Big Tree after the game.
"The moment I got off the bus I went up to the sheriff's deputies there and said, 'This isn't going to work for us,' … and they just ignored me," Carey said.
Both women say the limo-bus driver even attempted to plead their case to deputies.
"He explained the Americans With Disabilities Act to them and tried to tell them how we physically can't walk those distances, and that's why he wanted to drop us off," Carey said.
Carey's disability, brought on because of chemotherapy and steroids, involves damage to her spine and knees.
While she was able to manage to walk to the stadium, the trek back became more arduous.
"And as I got back to the bus, I literally collapsed to the ground. I could not go anymore," said Carey, who also claims that deputies seemingly couldn't care less.
"No one offered to help or give me a hand up. None of them said anything. They all just stood there with their arms crossed just staring as I laid on the ground crying," she said.
Not a happy sheriff
Speaking with 2 On Your Side, Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said, "When I made aware of this, let's just say I was not a happy Sheriff. We work very hard to provide quality customer service, and as an ageny we pride ourselves in that. Hearing about something like this is both troubling and disturbing."
While vowing to "get to the bottom of this," Garcia said that in a situation like this deputies should have contacted the Bills, who would then offer to pick up disabled fans on carts and bring them to the stadium.
He also reminded that due to construction of the new stadium near the current one along Abbott Road, the parking situation has changed, including where limos and busses are supposed to park. He also noted that on Saturday, both the newly designated bus and limo lots were closed to accommodate youth activates as part of the Kid's Day festivities at the stadium.
Describing security efforts at the stadium when games attract upwards of 60,000 fans as monumental, Garcia said it's up to everyone to do their best, especially his deputies.
"And to anyone attending the games, I would say if there is any confusion about where to park, contact the Sheriff's Office or the Bills, and we'll make sure to get you to the right spot," he said.
A teachable moment?
Meanwhile, Brittany Carey isn't seeking damages nor does she even want anyone to get in trouble.
She just wants everyone to think about something.
"Disabled people deserve the right to enjoy entertainment just everybody else does. That's why the Americans with Disabilities Act is in place, so things like this don't happen, and so we don't have to feel like we are less than anyone else," Carey said.