Deadly Rochester car strike: Who is Michael Avery?

3 people, including Michael Avery, died in Rochester, New York, incident and several others were injured

The driver who killed himself and two other people while injuring several others appeared to be an unassuming man before causing a fiery crash in upstate New York early on New Year's Day. 

Michael Avery, a 35-year-old North Syracuse resident, was identified as the driver who "appears to have intentionally been driving towards the pedestrian crossing" near a Rochester, New York, concert venue and smashed into another car, Police Chief David Smith said.

This all happened less than an hour into the new year. 

Before Avery was identified as the driver, he lived in a modest Syracuse-area apartment and had a business called "Mike's Courier Service," according to public records.


Michael Avery

Michael Avery was identified as the driver who killed three people, including himself, in a devastating attack in Rochester, New York. (FBI)

Avery had a minor criminal record that included a 2019 guilty plea for driving under the influence in Arizona, according to public records. 

He was also arrested in 2003 for larceny, according to, which reported New York State Police, North Syracuse and the Onondagao County Sheriff's Office had no records of interacting with Avery. 


It is unclear if Avery was actively working at the time of the incident. 

Family members told detectives Avery had undiagnosed mental health issues, according to the Rochester police chief, but investigators still do not have a motive.

Watch moment car speeds up and bursts into flames in RochesterVideo
Fire after the explosion in Rochester, New York

A truck equipped with over a dozen gas canisters rammed another car in Rochester, New York, and created an inferno that killed at least two people on New Year's Day. (Harlem Koyval via ABC News)

Avery died in the hospital a day after the incident. 

The two passengers in the car Avery hit – Justina Hughes, 28, and Joshua Orr, 29 – died at the scene. 


The other victims were rushed to a hospital, and one of the five surviving victims suffered life-threatening injuries, the chief said. 

Nothing obvious in his past stands out as a bold red flag, but he made very peculiar movements during the days leading up to the Jan. 1 incident. 

Timeline of the days leading to the fatal crash

Dec. 27

placeholderAvery drove to Rochester in his personal vehicle – about a 1.5-hour drive from Syracuse – and checked into the WoodSpring Suites in the town of Greece, New York, which is about five miles from the scene of the crash.

Dec. 29

Around 2:45 p.m., Avery rented a Ford Expedition from an agency in a Rochester airport.

Michael Avery

Michael Avery, 35, drove from the Syracuse area, where he lived, to Rochester for unknown reasons before he appeared to intentionally drive into oncoming traffic, according to police. (FBI )

Dec. 30

Between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., Avery made "at least a half dozen" purchases of gasoline in gas containers from different locations throughout Monroe and Ontario counties, Chief Smith said.

Police said he appeared to be alone during each purchase. 

Jan. 1

placeholderAvery "sped up, crossed into the oncoming lane of traffic and appears to have intentionally been driving towards a pedestrian crossing," Smith said.

At the same time, the other driver, who was an Uber driver, pulled out of a parking spot and was blindsided by Avery's Ford. 

Aftermath of fatal Rochester, New York, car explosion

The aftermath of a fatal car explosion in Rochester, New York, that claimed the lives of at least two people. (ABC News)

"There are lots of questions," Rochester Mayor Malik Evans said during Tuesday morning's press conference. "I have lots of questions. Everyone up here still has lots of questions.

"Why Rochester? Why Syracuse? Why all the gas cans? These are all things that will continue to be investigated. And as the chief has said, this is an ongoing investigation until it's not. So this is an ongoing investigation until not. But we will continue to provide updates."

One thing police and the FBI said was Avery did not appear to be motivated by radical ideology or a terrorist attack.

The fatal incident occurred as attendees were leaving a concert by the rock band moe. 

"Last night's events outside the Kodak Center have left us all in profound shock and sadness," the group said in a statement afterward. 

"On a night that was meant for celebration and togetherness, we are faced instead with a tragedy that defies understanding. Our hearts go out to the family and friends of those who lost their lives, and our thoughts are with those who were injured."

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