In the blink of an eye, a young family of four from Batavia lost their lives Sunday morning when their minivan collided with a tractor-trailer on Route 63 in this Genesee County town.
Pronounced dead at the scene were: Peter J. Boyce, 35; his wife, Connie, 33; and their children, Alexander, 9, and Bradley, 5, all of East Main Street, according to Genesee County sheriff's officials.
"When the call came in, it sounded like a serious call," said Matt Keller, chief of the Bethany Volunteer Fire Company, "but when we got here it was nothing like what we expected. It was much worse."
The Boyce family was in their Chevrolet minivan just after 11 a.m. Sunday, headed north on Route 63, near Little Canada Road, described as a rural, but well-traveled route with curves and hills.
Peter was driving, his wife was in the front passenger seat, and the children were in the back.
The Boyce minivan crossed into the southbound lane and into the path of an oncoming semi operated by Brian J. Hack, 47, of Welland, Ont.
The truck, owned by J-Line Transport of Beamsville, Ont., was headed for Blandon, Pa., with large coils of aluminium.
"When we arrived on scene there was a tractor-trailer over an embankment on the west side of the road," Keller said. "There was a minivan, heading northbound, in the other lane of the road."
When asked to describe the scene, Keller was at a loss for words.
"I don't know quite how to say it," Keller said. "We have dealt with this type of situation before, but not quite of this magnitude."
Firefighters pulled the Boyce family from the wreckage.
"That was very stressful," Keller said. "We're still in a state of shock."
Coroners Robert A. Yungfleisch, Donald E. Coleman and Jack E. Taylor pronounced the four dead at the scene.
Connie Boyce was a nutrition educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County, and her husband worked at Cargill in Batavia, according to Connie's boss, Beverly L. Mancuso.
"She always had a smile on her face no matter what was going on," Mancuso said. "If I ever needed anything done, she would just jump in and help."
"I still can't believe it," Mancuso said Sunday night. "This is so horrific."
Hack, the driver of the truck, walked away without injury, sheriff's officials said. It also was unclear Sunday night whether any charges were lodged against the truck driver.
The crash scene is located about an hour east of Buffalo. The accident closed down a half-mile stretch of Route 63, between Little Canada and Fargo roads, for several hours, as deputies, including the Sheriff's Crash Management Team, and state police investigated the accident.
Firefighters still were at the scene well into the evening waiting for the tractor-trailer to be towed and discussing what they had just witnessed.
"It hits home. It hits us all," Keller said. "We all take it to heart, and it will be on our minds for a while."
Genesee Correspondent Bill Brown assisted with this report.