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Niagara Sheriff mum on fatal crash

Five days after a fatal crash in Niagara County involving a sheriff’s deputy, the department has offered little information about what led to the collision.

What is publicly known has come from residents who live near the intersection, sources close to the investigation and Sheriff James Voutour, who was videotaped shortly after the crash Thursday night.

This is what is known:

• Deputy James H. Bissell was driving a sheriff’s patrol vehicle with the emergency lights activated, according to residents living near the intersection. No one reported hearing a siren.

• Glenn T. Annalora, who was killed in the collision, had the right of way as he was traveling east on Ridge Road when Bissell, who was driving south on North Ridge, passed a stop sign, Voutour said in a videotaped interview posted on YouTube.

• Bissell was not responding to a dispatcher’s call, Voutour confirmed.

• The deputy was a “newer hire” at the Sheriff’s Office who had been on the force for a “few months,” according to Chief Deputy Michael P. Dunn.

• Bissell was “definitely not suspended,” Dunn said, but currently is not working.

Many questions remain unanswered, and the department declined to give further information, citing the continuing investigation:

• Where was Bissell headed at the time of crash?

• How fast was he going?

• Was he given a toxicology test?

The crash was reported shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday at the intersection of Route 104 (Ridge Road) and Route 93 (North Ridge) in the Town of Cambria.

Annalora’s Jeep was T-boned in the intersection and sent rolling onto a nearby lawn where it landed on its roof. The Lockport father of three was pronounced dead at Eastern Niagara Hospital.

His wife, Mary A. Annalora, 58, who was a passenger in the Jeep, was taken by Mercy Fight to Erie County Medical Center, where she was treated for internal injuries and broken ribs and vertebrae.

Bissell also was flown to ECMC, where he was treated for a head injury.

Attorney Terrence M. Connors is representing the Annalora family. “We’ve been asked to investigate the accident and assist the family,” Connors said.

The Sheriff’s Office has launched an investigation, said Voutour, who is out of the office until Thursday. The Criminal Investigation Bureau is assisting.

“We do know that he wasn’t en route to a call,” Voutour told a WKBW television news reporter the night of the crash. “But that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t trying to stop maybe someone speeding or some motor vehicle violation that he saw. We do have information that his overhead lights were on, but we don’t know why.”

Investigators are looking to recover information from a dash cam in the cruiser and a body cam reportedly worn by Bissell, Voutour said.

The recovery and downloading of a “black box” from the cruiser also could provide information, said attorney Thomas Burton, who is familiar with the use of event data recorders and motor vehicle accident liability.

“If you can extract the information, it is darn near flawless proof as to speed, braking inputs and other critical factors for accident reconstruction,” Burton said. “The data is not always there. Sometimes the event is not triggered. Just because someone has an accident doesn’t mean it’s being recorded.”

Police departments are increasingly resorting to such recorders to help in investigations and to monitor officers, reported Digital Trends, an online report published in November 2014. The system is capable of sending information on throttle position and whether the officer is wearing a seat belt.

It is not know whether Bissell will face criminal charges in connection with the fatality.

Sources close to the investigation said police officers operating in emergency situations must exhibit extremely reckless behavior in order to be considered criminally culpable.

“There is an elevated standard of negligence for officers involved in emergency operations,” said one source. “The officer must act recklessly.”

Annalora had worked as a tool and die maker for Sherwood Division of Harsco in Lockport. He recently opened Glenn’s Coin & Cards on Main Street in Lockport.

Mary Annalora worked in the cafeteria at Newfane Middle School.

They have three grown children: Air Force Master Sgt. Christopher Annalora, stationed in Alaska; Amy Witorowicz of Camillus, near Syracuse; and Nicole Page of Tennessee.

email jkwiatkowski@buffnews.com