More than a month after he was fatally injured in a high-speed motorcycle crash, Daniel A. Buttery's family remains haunted by two questions about his death:
.?Was Buttery being chased, as witnesses have indicated, perhaps in some sort of "road rage" incident on the eastbound Thruway in Hamburg?
.?And why did his immediate family not learn about the incident for more than 8˝ hours after the crash?
Buttery, a 62-year-old retired mechanic for the New York State Parks, was fatally injured shortly before 1:10 p.m. Aug. 12, when his Harley-Davidson Rocker crashed on the Exit 57 ramp in Hamburg.
He died the next day in Erie County Medical Center.
The Lewiston man's family says it's offering a $5,000 reward for the identification, arrest and conviction of the driver who may have chased Buttery after a road-rage incident moments earlier on the Thruway.
"I don't even know if the motorist knew what happened to my husband," said Valerie Olszewski Buttery, the victim's widow.
Even if that person never is identified, the family would like him or her to know what happened.
"I want this guy to know that he's the reason my husband died that day," Valerie Buttery said.
The State Police incident report makes no mention of any chase or road-rage incident. It states that the motorcycle was traveling "at an unsafe speed" when it went from the passing lane to the driving lane and then onto the exit ramp, where it failed to negotiate the curve.
The motorcycle went off the ramp, onto the left shoulder and then onto a grassy area before it struck an embankment and overturned.
It then came to rest partially on Buttery's legs.
So why does Buttery's family think he was being chased?
The first witness at the accident scene later told the family's attorney that two other witnesses at the scene told him just that.
"They told the witness that they saw a dark Jeep-type vehicle traveling behind ," said the family attorney, who asked not to be named. "It appeared to them that Daniel Buttery was being chased."
That same witness gave a statement to state police, saying that he was in the right lane when the red motorcycle passed him, going "at least 80 mph," state police said.
"At no time did any witness mention that there was anybody chasing the motorcycle," said Capt. Steven A. Nigrelli, who oversees criminal investigations for State Police Troop A.
According to hospital and police reports, Buttery suffered swelling and hemorrhaging of the brain, a broken femur and a broken nose.
Valerie Buttery has no proof of what happened that day as her husband rode home from Chicago, after his motorcycle had been on a trailer coming from a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D.
But she knows her husband, and she has a strong suspicion about what might have happened.
"My husband was a professional truck driver, and he had driven a motorcycle ever since I think he was 19," she said. "There was no way he would have sped up to take the exit."
Buttery speculated that her husband may have slowed down in a construction zone before the exit, only to have someone cut him off.
He then might have responded with an obscene gesture that would have led to the other driver chasing him.
"I think he took the Hamburg exit to get away from the guy," she added.
Buttery's family members say they weren't notified about the accident until about 9:45 p.m. that night, or 8˝ hours later. That's when his wife said she was contacted by officials at ECMC, where he was taken by Mercy Flight.
State Police reports indicate otherwise. A report filed at 4:43 p.m. that day has a checked box signifying that a family member had been notified, said Capt. Douglas Montijo, Troop T zone commander.
Buttery's cellphone was found on him, and family members say he had called his wife from somewhere in Pennsylvania hours before the fatal incident to say he was on his way home.
Valerie Buttery explained why an earlier notification would have made a difference.
When she and other family members got to ECMC the night of the fatal incident, Buttery was heavily sedated and surviving on a breathing tube after receiving at least three blood transfusions.
He died at 11:26 a.m. the next day.
"By the time I got to the hospital, he was brain-dead," she said. "If I had been notified earlier, maybe I could have talked to my husband and gotten some information. All that time, he was without his family.
"It would have meant everything to be with him, to let him know we were there, that he wasn't alone - to try to comfort him."