Investigation continues after a vehicle exploded at a checkpoint on the US side of a bridge connecting the two countries at Niagara Falls.
The two people killed when their luxury car crashed into a border checkpoint in Niagara Falls and exploded in a fiery wreck have been identified as a New York husband and wife, police said.
The couple’s 2022 Bentley Flying Spur slammed into a row of security booths at the Rainbow Bridge and burst into flames on Wednesday.
The investigation into what caused them to race through an intersection, hit a low median and become airborne continued, with investigators looking at whether medical or mechanical issues may have contributed, Niagara Falls Police Chief John Faso told local media on Friday.
Police identified the couple as Kurt P Villani and Monica Villani, both 53, of Grand Island, a suburb on the Niagara River between Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
Online business records and the company website indicate the victims’ family owns a lumber business and several hardware stores in the Buffalo area.
Records show they are the owner of Gui’s Lumber and seven Ace Hardware locations in western New York, operating the business since the mid-1980s.
“We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all that extended prayers, condolences and well wishes,” the families and the lumber company said in a joint statement released by the Erie County Sheriff’s Office on Friday.
“At this point, we are requesting privacy so we may begin the process of healing.”
The wreck prompted widespread concern on both sides of the border, as video and images of what appeared to be the aftermath of an explosion began to circulate online and officials closed the bridge and three other nearby crossings.
Authorities investigated for several hours before the FBI’s Buffalo office said it found no signs of a terror attack and turned the case over to local police as a traffic investigation.
The president of the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce said on Friday that the couple’s support for their community was well known.
“They gave from their heart, so they didn’t make a big deal about it,” Eric Fiebelkorn said.
The eldest Villani died last year, leaving a void in the close-knit business community that has now grown with the loss of the son, Fiebelkorn said.
The Niagara Falls Police Department has said the crash investigation will take time given the complexity.
About 6,000 vehicles cross the Rainbow Bridge each day, according to the US Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inventory. The short, steel bridge offers scenic views of Niagara Falls.
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