“The Wilson community has been so hard hit by loss. Both are such nice people. This is a real tragedy,” said Deputy Town Clerk Diane Muscoreil.
The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office identified the victims as Ronald Zauner, 69, and Cathy World, 58, who were both driving their own cars on Wilson Burt-Road when, according to preliminary investigation, the driver of a pickup rear-ended World’s vehicle, crossed over the lane and hit Zauner’s car.
That driver was identified as Fredrick Lederhouse, 58, of Ransomville.
No charges have been filed, but Niagara County Sheriff James R. Voutour told The Buffalo News that investigators are looking at speed as a possible factor in the crash.
Both Zauner and World were active, well-known and well-liked members of their community, according to residents who spoke to The News on Thursday.
“Cathy was always out walking around and saying hello to everybody,” said Town Clerk Wanda Burrows. “And Ron had been very involved in his Boy Scouts and in church ministry.”
Julie Godfrey, Wilson’s tax collector, said she knew both World and Zauner from church.
“Cathy was a sweet and wonderful girl. She always had a smile. She was the sweetest person you want to know,” said Godfrey.
Zauner and his wife, Judy, are the parents of two adults sons. Godfrey said her children and the Zauners’ children had grown up together in the Boy Scouts.
“He was very active in prison ministry, which some people shy away from, but he loved it,” Godfrey said.
“Just so many things I don’t know where to begin,” she said “He was just the greatest guy. He enjoyed life – always a smile on his face and a God bless you. He made you feel good.”
World, who was unmarried, cleaned houses for people and delivered the Retailer, according to Godfrey. She said World had a walking paper route in the village but was unsure if she had a motor route or had been delivering the weekly paper the day of the crash.
Deputies were called to the scene in the 4800 block of Wilson-Burt Road just before 4 p.m. Wednesday and found the two victims still in their vehicles and unconscious.
Zauner was removed from his vehicle but pronounced dead at the scene. World was removed from her vehicle by the Wilson Fire Department and transported to Eastern Niagara Hospital in Newfane, where she was pronounced dead.
Lederhouse was conscious at the scene and able to exit his vehicle. He was transported by the Olcott Fire Department to Eastern Niagara Hospital in Newfane, where he was being treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
No passengers were in any of the vehicles.
The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office Accident Investigation Unit spent most of the evening at the scene attempting to determine a cause of the crash.
No alcohol or drugs were involved, and weather does not appear to have been a factor, according to deputies at the scene.