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FLIGHT 3407: Tragedy hits close to home

Niagara Gazette

Two passengers with ties to the Niagara Falls area have been identified as victims in the crash of Flight 3407.

John Fiore, a Grand Island resident and Falls native who recently retired from the U.S. Air Force after more than 30 years of service, was returning home from a vacation when the plane went down Thursday night.

John Roberts III, the son of a prominent Lewiston restaurateur, was also on board.

Fiore’s friends recalled him as a dedicated military man who donated much of his time and energy to charitable causes.

“He was the best,” said Duane Frost, a long-time friend of Fiore’s. “There’s not a bad word you could say about him.”

Fiore, a 59-year-old father of two, worked as a plant manager at Washington Mills on Buffalo Avenue in the Falls. Frost said Fiore served in the U.S. Marine Corps for two years before joining the U.S. Air Force. Frost said Fiore retired last year as a member of the Air Force reserves have obtained the rank of senior master sergeant, one of the most difficult promotions to earn in that branch of the armed services.

Frost described Fiore as a military man through and through, noting that his career of service included tours of duty during the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm and, most recently, two separate tours during the Iraq War. Fiore was scheduled to land at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport on Thursday following a two-week vacation in China.

“When I saw the plane crash I was just praying he wasn’t in it,” Frost said. “That was the time when he was supposed to be coming back.”

Closer to home, Fiore was active in several local veterans groups, including the American Legion John J. Welch Post 381, the Veterans of Foreign Wars LaSalle Griffon Post 917 and the Lt. John Paul Bobo Detachment of the Marine Corps League. Frost said Fiore’s contributions to those organizations will be sorely missed.

“There’s not a better friend,” Frost said. “There’s not a better man. He did so much work for the legion and the veterans organizations. He was just a stand-up guy.”

Fiore’s fellow members at the Grand Island Moose Lodge No. 180 on Grand Island Boulevard remembered him Friday as a man with a generous spirit who was always willing to donate his time and energy to the community.

“It’s shocking,” said Lodge Treasurer Rick Halas. “He was just a great guy. Right now, the lodge is mourning for him. He was a great contributor.”

Roberts III, son of Apple Granny’s restaurant owner John Roberts, was 48. He was reportedly returning to Niagara County for a visit with his family when the crash occurred.

Through a spokesperson, the Roberts family declined comment on Friday.

“The Roberts are a very well liked family in Lewiston,” said Town Supervisor Fred Newlin. “This is a terrible tragedy that has befallen them and we should respect their rights of privacy and keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”