The U.S. and Canadian authorities from the heads of state to their federal governments to the state and local law enforcement agencies responded in force to the car explosion at their borders on Wednesday to what many initially assumed was a terrorist attack, and then determined it not a terrorist attack, but just a tragic accident.
Now, the passengers in the car are identified.
The two passengers were identified Friday as a western New York husband and wife who own a family lumber business and several hardware stores around Buffalo, New York.
The Niagara Falls Police Department have identified them as Kurt P. Villani and Monica Villani, both 53, of Grand Island, New York, a Buffalo suburb.
The victims’ family owns Gui’s Lumber and seven Ace Hardware stores and have been in 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.”
Details have not been released on what exactly led to the couple’s crash Wednesday at the Rainbow Bridge, where their car sped through an intersection, hit a median that resulted in the car going airborne, jetting it into security booths and bursting into flames.
The bridge and three other crossings in the area were immediately closed. It affected traveled internationally at the Buffalo airport.
The Niagara Falls Police Department released a statement Friday that named the victims but contained no other details.
“The City of Niagara Falls would like to extend our sincere condolences to the families as they deal with this tragedy,” the statement read.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has described the crash as “surreal” and said the vehicle was “basically incinerated” with nothing left but the engine.
“You actually had to look at it and say, was this generated by AI?” Hochul stated at a news conference Wednesday. “Because it was so surreal to see. How high in the air this vehicle went, and then the crash, and the explosion, and the fire.”
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