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BURT – Investigators were searching late Tuesday for the cause of a fatal crash that was reported Tuesday morning. Speed appears to have been a factor, according to Niagara County Sheriff James R. Voutour.

Sheriff’s deputies were called by a neighbor to investigate what was first believed to be possibly a fallen tree at a house at Lake and Transit roads at 6:30 a.m. in the hamlet of Burt in the Town of Newfane, just outside Olcott.

When deputies and firefighters arrived, a further investigation found a car in the backyard that had apparently driven through the entire house.

Douglas Coleman, 49, of Newfane, was driving a 2008 Chevrolet Corvette and had been driving north on Transit Road when he crossed Lake Road and struck the house head-on, deputies said. He was found dead at the scene.

“(The car) penetrated the porch of the house and a cinder block wall, went all the way through the garage and then penetrated the cinder block wall on the back side and was almost completely out of the house on the back side,” said Voutour.

The house at 6201 Lake Road was unoccupied at the time of the crash and other than the driver, no other injuries were reported.

Damage to the house and its foundation was reported to be substantial.

Voutour said it was tough to determine the speed of the car because there were no skid marks, but he added, “Obviously he had to be going at a pretty substantial speed to penetrate two cinder block walls. He went right through two of them.

“I’ve never seen a car go through a brick wall, then through a house and then through another brick wall,” said Voutour. “It’s a lot of speed.”

Voutour said at first when a neighbor went out to investigate Tuesday morning they thought a downed tree had damaged the porch, but when firefighters arrived they went around the back and found the car.

“We thought at first it was a hit and run, that a car had hit the wall then backed off and left, but the fire company walked behind the house and found the car and the body, underneath a raised wooden deck,” he said.

It appears from other reports that the crash may have happened as early as midnight.

Voutour confirmed that some neighbors said they heard a crash sometime overnight.

“He’d been there for some time when we got there, but there was no way you could see what happened from the road,” added Voutour.

He said an autopsy has been scheduled with the Erie County medical examiner to help determine the cause of the crash.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com