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Troopers seek cause of fatal crash; SUV driver crossed into opposite lane

State police Wednesday continued to investigate the cause of a head-on crash that took the life of a Niagara Falls man and injured three others, including a six-month-old boy, Tuesday night on Saunders Settlement Road, between Garlow and Miller roads.

State Police Investigator John DiPasquale said troopers are still trying to piece together the cause of the crash.

"No one really knows at this point," DiPasquale said, regarding why a sport utility vehicle driven by Samantha Thompson, 20, of Lockport, crossed into oncoming traffic, critically injuring Thompson and resulting in the death of Elijah Holmes, 82, of Niagara Falls, a passenger in the SUV that Thompson's vehicle struck.

DiPasquale said witnesses reported that Thompson might have been slumped in her seat reaching for something or possibly texting.

"Based on what they saw, it supports the possibilities, but any speculation is premature. We are trying to piece that aspect together," the investigator said. "We can't rule out cell-phone use or texting, or rule out some other cause that caused her to drive to the left of the pavement markings."

Investigators said a 2001 Chevy Blazer, operated by Thompson, was traveling eastbound on Saunders Settlement Road at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday when it crossed into the opposite lane and struck a 1996 Chevy Suburban.

Holmes, a passenger in the Suburban, was taken to Mount St. Mary's Hospital, where he died from his injuries, troopers said.

The driver of the Suburban, Tyronda Ivey, 32, also of Niagara Falls, was taken by Mercy Flight to Erie County Medical Center for non-life threatening injuries. Ivey, who is Holmes' granddaughter, was in fair condition at ECMC on Wednesday.

Thompson was taken to Mount St. Mary's Hospital, but transfered to ECMC, where she was listed in critical condition on Wednesday. Jackson Thompson, her passenger and six-month-old son, was treated in Women and Children's Hospital for leg, head and chest injuries and released Wednesday.

DiPasquale said that despite some conjecture that one of the vehicles might have been heading to Artpark for a concert on Tuesday night, that does not appear to be the case.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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