OAN’s Geraldyn Berry
1:07 PM – Friday, November 24, 2023
The couple who lost their lives in the fatal explosion on the United States-Canada border have been identified by the Niagara Falls police as Monica and Kurt P. Villani, a married pair from Grand Island, New York.
The couple’s names were released Friday morning, once their family members were notified.
“The City of Niagara Falls would like to extend our sincere condolences to the families as they deal with this tragedy,” said Niagara Falls Police Superintendent John Faso in a news release.
On Wednesday morning, the 53-year-old couple crashed into a median on Rainbow Bridge, the passageway to and from Canada at Niagara Falls, while going at around 100mph. Eyewitnesses recounted that the vehicle became airborne after colliding with a cement median. Subsequently, it ignited and exploded upon impact with a border crossing booth.
Governor Kathy Hochul of New York described the crash as “surreal” and said the vehicle was “basically incinerated” with nothing left but the engine and a scattering of charred debris.
However, the FBI agency released a statement saying a search of the scene revealed no explosive materials and no terrorism nexus was identified, to which the New York governor affirmed.
“There is no evidence at this time that this was a terrorist activity. And that’s what I want to make very clear to the public,” Hochul said.
The collision had occurred shortly before 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, prompting the closure of the four vehicle bridges spanning the U.S.-Canada border in Western New York. Additionally, one border patrol officer sustained minor injuries. By Wednesday evening, three of the bridges had resumed operations, while the Rainbow Bridge reopened on Thursday night around 6:30 p.m.
Although authorities have not yet released details on what exactly led to the couple’s crash, during a news briefing on Thursday afternoon, Mayor Robert Restaino of Niagara Falls mentioned that investigators presumed the couple was en route to a KISS concert on Wednesday night. The concert was ultimately called off due to the illness of frontman Paul Stanley, as confirmed in a post by the guitarist on X.
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What factors are being considered in the investigation of the fatal Rainbow Bridge crash, such as vehicle malfunction, medical issues, or driver error?
Are looking into possible factors such as vehicle malfunction, medical issues, or driver error. He emphasized that the incident was not a deliberate act of terrorism.
The Villanis were well-known members of the community and active participants in local events. Monica Villani was a dedicated teacher at a nearby elementary school, while Kurt Villani worked as a healthcare professional. Their sudden and tragic deaths have deeply saddened their friends, family, and the entire community of Grand Island.
As the investigation into the crash continues, thoughts and prayers are being extended to the Villani family and all those affected by this devastating incident. The City of Niagara Falls is offering support and counseling services to those in need during this difficult time.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family during this difficult time. We will provide any assistance we can to help them through this tragedy,” said Superintendent John Faso, expressing the condolences of the Niagara Falls Police Department.
The incident serves as a tragic reminder of the unpredictable nature of accidents and the need for continuous vigilance and safety measures. Border crossings are critical points of travel and trade, and it is essential to prioritize the well-being and security of both travelers and border patrol agents.
While investigations are still underway, the reopening of the Rainbow Bridge and the resumption of normal operations on the other bridges reflect the resilience and efficiency of the authorities in managing such crises.
As the community mourns the loss of Monica and Kurt Villani, they also stand united in their support for one another and their determination to honor the couple’s memory.
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