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Prosecutors: Man fled fatal crash scene at airport 'because he was scared'

An Amherst man charged with leaving the scene of a fatal crash Wednesday night at Buffalo's airport left "because he was scared," according to prosecutors.

Lawrence J. Penna, 68, of Amherst (Photo courtesy of NFTA Transit Police)

Authorities tracked down Lawrence J. Penna, 68, of Amherst, using images from cameras in the area near the crash scene on Luiz F. Kahl Way at Buffalo Niagara International Airport and arrested him at his home, said Joanna Pasceri, spokeswoman for the Erie County District Attorney's Office.

In addition to the person killed, four others were injured and were taken to Erie County Medical Center in what initially appeared to be a one-vehicle rollover crash on airport grounds, NFTA Transit Police Chief George W. Gast said during a news conference Thursday morning.

Investigators later learned another vehicle was involved, Gast said.

The crash happened at about 11:45 p.m. Wednesday, police said. The investigation is continuing.

Police have not released any identifying information about the person who was killed. Of the four other people in the pickup who were injured, one was from Buffalo and the other three were identified as out-of-state residents.

Penna, who was charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident, appeared in Cheektowaga Town Court, where he was held in lieu of $50,000 cash bail or $100,000 bond, Pasceri said. Penna is due back in court for a felony hearing on Wednesday.

Charges are also expected against the driver of the vehicle that rolled over, Gast said.

"We anticipate charges will be placed against the driver of the pickup truck that rolled over, but that's obviously up to the district attorney," he said.

While the investigation remains ongoing, police said they believe excessive speed may have been a factor. Gast said investigators don't presently believe alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash.

Gast called a fatal crash at the airport a "highly unusual situation," with even minor crashes in the area where this happened being rare.

All four injured persons remain at ECMC with what were described as non life-threatening injuries, Gast said.

In addition to police, firefighters from the airport and U-Crest Fire Co. responded to the scene. Emergency responders had to lift the pickup slightly in order to free one of the injured parties' arms.

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