Niagara Gazette

January 1, 2013

Top stories of 2012 didn't stop at No. 10

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — When it came time early last month to sit down and determine the top 10 local stories of 2012, it became clear very early that it was going to be a pretty tough task.

Sure, a few of the top stories jump right out at you, but as you’re reading through Don Glynn’s comprohensive list of all the “top stories” you realize a lot happened in our neck of the woods this year.

Here’s a few of those big stories, in no particular order, that just failed to make our Top 10:

n HYDE PARK RESCUE: It was a chilly afternoon in February when a man walking with his dogs in Hyde Park attempted to coral one of his dogs who had wandered onto the ice-covered Hyde Park Lake. The ice didn’t hold and the man fell in. A group of Niagara Falls firefighters — led by Battalion Chief Dan Boland and fire Capt. Jason Zona — pulled the victim, 70-year-old Pascal Scrufari, to safety but he later died at the hospital. A firefighter at the scene later adopted all of Scrufari’s dogs to keep them together.

n WILSON HOUSE EXPLOSION: An explosion at 6 a.m. on July 24, blew a Wilson family out of its home and took the life of a 14-year-old girl. The shock could be felt four miles away. The Chestnut Road home of the Johnson family was leveled. Four other members of the family were injured in the blast and hospitalized. Sarah Johnson, a member of the Wilson Central School soccer team, was killed. The cause of the explosion was determined to be a propane leak and the Johnson family is bringing suit against NOCO Energy.

n GRISANTI CASINO INCIDENT: A brief brawl in a casino lounge left the wife of State Sen. Mark Grisanti with a concussion and a possible broken nose. Grisanti had called the attack on his wife, Maria, “a horrific scene.” The incident, which some investigators characterized as “a bar fight” involved Grisanti and his wife, Maria, Seneca Nation businessman Eric White and his wife Kristina, and a woman identified as Ellen Heron. In the end, no charges were filed in the case.

n NHL LOCKOUT: When the NHL and its players’ union couldn’t come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement over the summer, the owners locked out the players. Most fans didn’t think the dispute would stretch all that far into the season — if at all. They were wrong. The deal still remains to be reached, with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman setting a drop-dead date in the middle of January. If a new CBA isn’t signed and games beginning by then, he’ll cancel the season.

n FIRST NIAGARA BUYS HSBC BRANCHES: It was a deal that left thousands of Western New Yorkers facing a quandary. HSBC announced it was selling its American comercial banking interests and selling off branches. Months later, it was announced First Niagara Bank, formerly headquartered in Pendleton, would take over the lion’s share of HSBC’s business. The change-over was mostly smooth, though several branches were closed and remain in limbo.

n BUFFALO NIAGARA BILLION: Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged up to $1 billion in economic development money, tax breaks and low cost power to help spur economic growth in the region. The governor’s stated preference was for the money to be spent on large-scale projects largely within Buffalo city limits. But area legislators who met with the governor prior to the announcement said he would leave the details up to local investors, leaders and his newly created Regional Economic Development Council.