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After West Seneca fatal crash, a timely warning for teens to wear seat belts

It’s a season when giddy excitement about proms and graduation ceremonies becomes muted by news that a young life has been lost in a motor vehicle crash.

The latest tragedy occurred early Sunday in West Seneca. South Park High School senior Tyler Wackowski of Sloan was killed when his car rolled over and caught fire. He was 17. Three West Seneca East High School students, one West Seneca West student and a West Seneca West graduate survived the wreck at the intersection of Langner and Fisher roads.

Two days later, officials at West Seneca East decided to proceed with a scheduled event that kicked off the state’s annual seat belt awareness campaign. Mark J.F. Schroeder, acting commissioner of the State Department of Motor Vehicles, was glad school officials decided not to postpone the event.

“It’s a timely conversation and that’s why we’re here,” Schroeder said Tuesday.

Three of the passengers in Sunday’s crash told police they were not wearing seat belts. Damage to the car was too severe to immediately determine if Tyler had been wearing one.

The News’ Aaron Besecker and Keith McShea report that statistics verify that this is more than an occasional issue. Twenty-seven 17- and 18-year-olds died in April or May car crashes between 1994 and 2014 in Western New York, according to the latest federal data available.

Some speakers at Tuesday’s event clearly made an impression on students. The speaker who seemed to have the greatest impact was Shannon E. Filbert, a West Seneca town justice and a West Seneca East graduate. She delivered her speech from a lowered microphone, next to the podium, to accommodate her wheelchair. Filbert is a quadriplegic, the result of breaking her neck in a car accident in which she was not wearing a seat belt. She spoke matter-of-factly about the decision she made as a 16-year-old junior in 1998.

“We're not invincible,” Filbert told the students. “I wasn't and neither are you. It takes two seconds to put on your seat belt. ... I'm happy with my life, I'm not saying that I wasn't resilient, and I didn't fight, but for something so simple, I have to live every day thinking, 'What if' ... .' "

WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT

TSN report says Sabres have their next coach: According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, the Sabres will announce Ralph Krueger as the 19th coach in franchise history. Krueger has not been behind a hockey bench in any capacity since 2016 and last appeared in the NHL six years ago when he spent 48 games as Edmonton's coach during a lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Lance Lysowski's story on Krueger is packed with details on the 59-year-old, including his long run coaching the Swiss national team and the best-selling book he authored in German on leadership and motivational skills.

Farewell to a Bills superfan: Team, fans vow to keep Pancho Billa's legacy alive: The Texas native’s lifelong passion for the Bills led him to create a costumed superfan persona. Castro’s health battles in recent months had team officials and fellow fans showering him with well-wishes. He died Tuesday at a medical center in Dallas. Castro was 39. When Brandon Beane’s phone began to buzz in Orchard Park Tuesday, the Bills general manager understood immediately what the call would mean. It was Veronica Borjon, Castro’s longtime partner, calling him to tell him about Castro’s death. Columnist Sean Kirst and James McCoy chronicled Castro’s hospital stay last month. At that time, Castro wanted to make sure he had the chance to thank Bills fans for accepting him. McCoy recorded Castro’s video message.

Buffalo nursing home administrator attacked by daughter of resident: The administrator of Safire Rehabilitation of Southtowns suffered an apparent neck injury Tuesday when a diabetic resident’s daughter attacked her during an argument over insulin withheld from her mother, according to several people familiar with the incident.

Tariffs on Chinese goods cause trouble from WNY’s factories to farms: President Trump's trade war with China is causing concerns from the factory floors of Buffalo to the soybean fields of Genesee County.

Beach at Olcott closed for season as rising lake threatens docks, businesses: The beach season in Olcott has been canceled. Krull Park Beach was completely under water Monday, and experts expect water to rise another 7 inches by June 10. “There’s no beach there at all,” says Newfane Supervisor Timothy Horanburg. “We can’t even get down to it. The access road we put in last year is taking a beating.”

Angry moms take to social media after Tim Hortons’ promo backfires: A Mother’s Day promotion at two Tim Hortons in Western New York has infuriated many people who suspect the chain intentionally deceived customers to get them into their shops. Tim Hortons offered free “mom-sized” iced coffee on Sunday. The problem: There were only a limited number of giant, 52-ounce cups to accommodate the promotion. When customers were told that the promotional coffees had sold out within a half-hour, it spurred an angry backlash on social media.

Buffalo scores middling grades in ranking of America’s fittest cities: Buffalo ranks 41.5 out of 100 in the annual rankings performed by the American College of Sports Medicine. The Queen City tied with Orlando, Fla. The region’s overall standing was helped by its high score for having well-designed, maintained parks. Arlington, Va., Seattle and Minneapolis topped this year’s list of America’s fittest cities.

(Got a news tip? Email citydesk@buffnews.com.)

FOOD & DRINK

“Any pizza is better than no pizza:” If you’re a pizza lover, click this When’s Food? podcast. Do you fold your slices in half? What’s your thought about white pizza? How about anchovies on your pie? These are some of the lively topics that are hashed out by the podcast crew.

Aunt Robin’s Diner pays it forward to Lancaster community: This breakfast-and-lunch-only spot is located in a small blue plaza on Walden Avenue. The diner offers free meals on special occasions and gives away bag lunches to young people throughout the year.

NEW BUFFALO

Teaching kids about technology and other topics through play: There has been a lot of buzz about the anticipated opening of Explore & More Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Children’s Museum. In this Invest Buffalo Niagara podcast, Museum CEO Michelle Urbanczyk tells Greg Pokriki the goal of the Canalside attraction will be to inspire visitors to learn through play. And while we're talking about Canalside’s future, check out this link involving plans to construct a new building where a replica of a 19th century packet boat will be built. It’s back to the future.

SABRES

Krueger might be the most interesting man in hockey: Ralph Krueger was a core member of the World Economic Forum's council on new models of leadership. He was fired from Edmonton via Skype. He led Team Europe to the championship series at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. His resume is like none other. It's different. As Mike Harrington's column says, different in this case seems to be good. But will it be better?

What are the challenges facing Krueger?: The situation in Buffalo is not all that different from the one Krueger faced in Edmonton. That team lacked a winning culture, too, and had plenty of young talent. But there's certainly a lot for Krueger and his staff to work on, including figuring out how to better protect the Sabres' net. Lysowski wrote about that and the rest of the challenges facing Phil Housley's replacement.

(For more Sabres news, sign up here for the [BN] Hockey newsletter.)

WITH YOUR MORNING COFFEE 

Buffalo’s efforts to help reverse population declines by luring refugees to the city are garnering more international attention. The New York Times published this article that includes accounts of how immigrants and refugees have helped to reshape some neighborhoods on Buffalo’s East and West sides.

What does it take to transform an old auto body shop into a dynamic art studio and haven for creativity? Vanessa Frost opened MUSEjar in East Aurora six years ago, shortly after moving back from New York City. Frost's artistic endeavors are profiled this month on the Buffalo Boss Babes website.

Do you savor fond memories of the Seneca Mall? My most vivid recollection came in the early '70s when Brandon Cruz, the child star of the popular TV series “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father,” made a promotional appearance at the mall. Steve Cichon examines how the region’s changing retail landscape impacted the once-popular shopping mecca in West Seneca.

Seasoned authors and journalists have heard the advice many times: "Write about what you know." The same holds true for sellers of goods. And there aren't many local entities that are more qualified to stage a plant sale than the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. Organizers are promising to offer “all kinds of unusual and rare plants.” Spectrum News Buffalo takes a closer look at a sale that’s open to the public on Friday and Saturday. A kickoff is being held Thursday for members and volunteers.

(Have feedback on the Good Morning, Buffalo newsletter? Email feedback@buffnews.com.)

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