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Couple Killed In U.S.-Canada Border Explosion Were Driving A Bentley Flying Spur

Police identified the driver and passenger of the fiery crash at the Niagara Falls, New York border on November 22 as Kurt P. Villani and his passenger and wife Monica Villani. The couple were driving in a 2022 Bentley Flying Spur that exploded when it crashed into a border checkpoint.

A Bentley spokesperson said that the incident was not tied to a 2021 recall of some Bentley models over the risk of possible accelerator pedal sticking, but authorities are still investigating the cause of this fatal crash. This recall is said not to affect any left-hand-drive cars.

A civil engineer in Westchester County, N.Y. who serves as an expert witness on road designs said that the Flying Spur was traveling at very high speed, and evidence from surveillance videos indicate that Mr. Villani was alert, not impaired, and was pressing on the brakes. The New York Times reported:

The Villanis had briefly visited the Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, a gleaming casino just to the east of the city’s famous waterfalls, before they hit the median, sending the Flying Spur shooting into the air. A border protection officer in a checkpoint booth had minor injuries.

Only about 30 seconds passed between when the car turned onto Niagara Street and when it struck a median at the checkpoint, a distance of about three-quarters of a mile, Mr. Restaino said. In surveillance video released by the authorities, the Bentley appeared to narrowly miss a black car that made a left turn across its path at an intersection just before the checkpoint.

Image of a 2023 Bentley Flying Spur Speed Edition 12 in a light greenish grey color obviously traveling at high speeds on a track.

While the precise model that Mr. Villani drove was not made public, his 2022 Bentley Flying Spur likely looked much like this 2023 Bentley Flying Spur Speed Edition 12.
Photo: Bentley

The Villanis were active and respected members of the Grand Island community, a town of under 25,000 inhabitants, and their community was stunned to learn of the accident.

Authorities pieced together the moments before the explosion, citing that the Villanis had left the casino and were headed to a Kiss concert in Toronto when Mr. Villani apparently lost control, hitting a median that launched the 5,000-pound-plus Bentley into the air, after which it collided with a vehicle inspection booth causing minor injuries to a border protection officer.

Community testimonials from friends of the Villanis poured in citing the family’s generosity through acts like plowing neighbors’ driveways and donating to repair the Niagara Sailing Club following a serious fire in 2021.

The Villanis owned an Ace Hardware chain in western N.Y. called Gui’s Lumber, and are survived by their young-adult son and daughter. Robert Restaino, the mayor of Niagara Falls and an acquaintance of Mr. Villani, said the crash could have been even worse given the busy travel day and the Flying Spur crossing several busy intersections prior to launching into the booth at the border.


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