‘A bright beam of sunshine’; Friend remembers victim in Kodak Center fatal crash

Friend calls victim in Kodak Center fatal crash “a bright beam of sunshine”

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Just after midnight on New Years Eve, Justina Hughes was killed with her friend Josh Orr when the ride-share car they were in was hit by an SUV filled with gas cans.

Thursday, News10NBC spoke with one of Hughes’ friends Shane Bolt.  

Berkeley Brean, News10NBC: “How would you describe her?”
Shane Bolt, friend of Justina Hughes: “She was a bright beam of sunshine. She was like a Leo by astrology and very much so, a beam of sunshine when she was in the room. She always made you feel special.”

Bolt says he and Hughes met about six years ago and they would often meet at concerts. Hughes and Orr were in an Uber leaving a New Years Eve concert at the Kodak Center on West Ridge Road. That’s when police say an SUV filled with gas tanks intentionally crashed into their car. Michael Avery, the driver of the SUV from Syracuse, died.

So did Orr and Hughes.

“There were a lot of times we’d be at concerts and we would see each other and it would be a week before we’d seen each other before or six months, and it was just always nice,” Bolt said. “Always big hugs, big smiles. Lots of love. Never a frown.”

Another friend of Hughes, Jonnie Wert offered this comment on email:

“I had the pleasure of being close to (Hughes) for almost 10 years and she truly was a free spirit who spread love and happiness everywhere she went, she made a huge mark on the world for the short time she was here and she left this world doing something that she always did, helping others. I love her with all my heart and I will miss her forever.”

Bolt had an opportunity to go to the same concert at Kodak Center, but choose to go to a different concert New Year’s Eve.

He recalled the phone call he got from a friend about the crash.

“When you get those calls you automatically worry because the worst runs through your mind and who it could be,” he said. “And for me, I had the decision that night to go to that concert or the one I went to and I went to that one instead. And it’s horrifying to think about anyone going through pain like that, especially people like Josh and Justine, two people who were both beams of sunshine to the room.”

Berkeley was unable to reach anyone from Josh Orr’s family. RPD told him they have nothing new to report. On Tuesday, the FBI said it had no evidence that links the driver and what happened to an ideology or terrorism.

Rochester Police said the SUV was speeding towards a crowd leaving the concert. By hitting the Uber that Hughes and Orr were in, it probably saved the lives of the dozens of people in that crowd.