Two people killed in intentional crash outside Kodak Center have been identified
UPDATE: The two passengers who died in the Uber have been identified as Joshua Orr, 29, from Webster, and Justina Hughes, 28, from Geneva.
The family of Orr released the following statement:
“Josh was a beautiful, generous human, filled with love and positivity and an advocate for those struggling with mental health. Aside from his family, he loved his girlfriend and his dog Eddie. On New Year’s Eve Josh was doing his favorite thing in the world, attending a Grateful Dead tribute band when he was taken from us. Josh is a hero and saved countless lives from being taken away from our community. We are thankful for all of the first responders of Fire, EMS and Law Enforcement for doing everything they could to help our son and his dear friend..”
The family of Hughes released the following statement:
“Justina was our family’s beautiful free spirit and she was loved by all of us beyond measure. She had an old soul and cared deeply for her family and friends. She was a talented artist who loved nature, and took every opportunity to hike a new trail and find a new waterfall. And oh how she loved music. It was the passion that gave her the most joy. We take peace in knowing that Justina and her very best friend, Josh, spent their last moments together, enjoying their passion and friendship. We also take comfort in knowing that many other lives were saved because they became, albeit unaware, a shield for others. And because of that, they will forever be heroes. We ask that you take a moment to reflect on the young lives that were taken away from their families and friends…”
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Rochester Police say a man from Syracuse intentionally crashed his rental car outside the Kodak Center on New Year’s Day, killing himself and two others.
RPD Chief David Smith spoke at a news conference on Tuesday morning about the fiery crash. It happened as people were leaving a concert at the venue at West Ridge Road. RPD says the motive is still unknown. You can see the full conference here:
Smith said that 35-year-old Michael Avery killed two passengers when he crashed into an Uber that was leaving the venue’s parking lot. The two passengers died at the scene while the Uber driver survived. Avery was taken to the hospital and died on Monday night. At least nine pedestrians were injured during the crash, one hospitalized with life-threatening injuries.
RPD Major Crimes Unit, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, and the Arson Task Force are all investigating the crash. Smith said there is no evidence that political or social ideology motivated the crash. Investigators have spoken with Avery’s family, who say that Avery may have suffered from undiagnosed mental health issues.
According to RPD, Avery traveled to Rochester in a personal car last Wednesday and checked in at the Woodspring Suites in Greece. Two days later, Avery rented the Ford Expedition from the Rochester airport.
RPD says Avery made multiple gas and gas container purchases in Monroe and Ontario counties throughout Saturday. Then, on New Year’s Day just before 1 a.m., Avery drove his rented Ford Expedition on West Ridge Road into the pedestrian crossing at the Kodak Center. First responders found at least a dozen gas cans in and around the Ford Expedition.
At the time of the crash, RPD officers were stopping traffic at the crossing for the concert. About 1,000 came out to see the rock band “moe.” Officers say the Ford Expedition sped up at the pedestrian crossing and went into the oncoming lane. At the same time, the Uber car was pulling out of the parking lot and collided with Avery’s car, killing the Uber’s passengers in the backseat and injuring pedestrians.
On Monday, investigators searched Avery’s hotel room and his personal car at the Rochester airport parking garage. They found no suicide note and no evidence of anyone else involved in the crime.
Investigators say they’re still combing through evidence and are asking anyone with information to call the RPD Major Crimes Unit at 585-428-7157 or to email MajorCrimes@CityOfRochester.gov. RPD shared these photo of Avery:
Roc City EMS says union chairwoman Julie Purick and her partner, AMR EMT and union representative Davin Eshelman were two of the many who responded to the scene. The pair was exposed to hot smoke and gas, and suffered respiratory injuries. Both were brought to Strong Memorial Hospital. Paramedic Purick remains on a ventilator, but shows signs of improvement.
Roc City EMS released the following statement to News10NBC:
Statement from Mayor Malik Evans:
“My heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims who were killed in the fiery crash that occurred on West Ridge Road last night. I pray for the victims who are still fighting for their lives and whose who are working to recover. I am thankful to the men and women of the Rochester Police Department and Rochester Fire Department for their work responding to this tragic incident. I also thank our County, State and Federal partners for their support on-scene and with the investigation. I know our community has many questions about this incident, and I ask for patience as investigators work diligently to piece together the details. I commit to providing updates as we learn more. We urge anyone with information about this crash to contact 911.”
Additional statement from Mayor Malik Evans (1/3/2024):
“As I continue to learn more about the tragic events leading to and following the fatal New Year’s Eve vehicle crash on West Ridge Road, both from the ongoing investigation and my conversations with the families of the victims, my concerns and sympathies continue to present themselves from my perspectives as a mayor and as a father.
My heart breaks for all of those who are suffering, especially the loved ones of the two young people who were killed when their vehicle was struck. I simply cannot comprehend the anguish of losing a child in such a senseless act during a moment that was supposed to be full of joy. I offer my deepest condolences to their families and friends, and I pray that that all those who were injured experience a swift and full recovery.
Furthermore, the injuries sustained by Emergency Medical Technicians who responded to this crash offer a stark reminder that public safety in all forms comes with very steep costs that cannot be measured with dollars. These EMTs remain in my thoughts as they continue to heal. We owe them and all the first responders who willingly risk their own lives to protect this community a tremendous debt of gratitude.
Finally, from the progress of the investigation, it is becoming increasingly apparent that mental health may have been a critical factor. I encourage anyone who feels that their challenges are too great to bear alone to remember that they are not alone. This community has resources to support those in need. If you believe you or someone you know would benefit from these resources, please call the Suicide and Crisis Prevention Hotline at 988.“
Statement from Monroe County Executive Adam Bello:
“My heart goes out to the families of the individuals killed and injured in the tragic crash last night on West Ridge Road outside of Kodak Center. I encourage the community to keep them in their thoughts today. I offer my deepest gratitude to the Rochester Police and Fire Departments and all first responders for the quick actions that undoubtedly saved lives last night. I have been briefed on the unfolding investigation and remain in continual contact with law enforcement. As the investigation progresses, I urge anyone who has information about the incident to call 911.”
The band moe. issued a statement on its Facebook page, reading in part:
“Last night’s events outside the Kodak Center have left us all in profound shock and sadness. On a night that was meant for celebration and togetherness, we are faced instead with a tragedy that defies understanding. Our hearts go out to the family and friends of those who lost their lives, and our thoughts are with those who were injured. … While the full details of the incident are still unfolding, our focus remains on the well-being of those affected and on the spirit of unity that has always been the hallmark of our community.”
The band expressed thanks to the first responders and venue staff for securing people’s safety.
Watch News10NBC’s coverage of the crash from Monday:
Photos from the scene: