8.6 C
Niagara Falls
Sunday, March 3, 2024
BREAKING NEWS – UPDATE: Rainbow Bridge still closed, other crossings reopen after vehicle explodes at border
A vehicle explosion on the U.S. side of the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls has resulted in the closure of all four bridge crossings between Niagara and New York State. Pixabay photo

The FBI has concluded that a fatal fiery vehicle crash Wednesday on the U.S. side of the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls was not an act of terrorism.

The federal law enforcement agency had been investigating the crash near the secondary inspection area at the bridge that resulted in the closure of all four border crossings between Niagara and New York state for hours.

While the other crossings, the Queenston-Lewiston, Whirlpool and Peace bridges reopened shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday, the Rainbow remained closed as of Thursday morning and it is unknown when it will re-open. 

The occupants of the vehicle — a man and a woman — died in the crash while a Customs and Border Protection officer was injured.

“A search of the scene revealed no explosive materials, and no terrorism nexus was identified,” the agency said in a statement late Wednesday night.

The matter is now a traffic investigation in the hands of the Niagara Falls (N.Y.) Police Department, the statement said.

In its own statement, Niagara Falls police superintendent John Faso said the investigation was being handled by the department’s Crash Management Unit.

“Due to the complexity of the incident, the investigation will take some time to complete,” he said.

The names of the victims are being withheld pending positive identification and notification of next of kin, he added.

The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, which operates the Rainbow Bridge, issued a news release Wednesday evening in regard to the situation.

“The Commission’s condolences and sympathy go out to the individuals and family members of those involved in today’s tragic accident,” the statement read. “Updates on the operational status of the Rainbow Bridge will be provided as available.”

It was shortly before noon on Nov. 22, a vehicle travelling at a high rate of speed struck what appeared to be a curb, was sent airborne and exploded when it crashed in the toll booth area on the U.S. side of the bridge.

A witness told Buffalo TV station WGRZ that he saw the vehicle speeding down Main Street in Niagara Falls, N.Y., going “100 miles per hour” in the direction of the border.

Two people, a man and a woman, in the vehicle were killed and a border officer was injured.

Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, which also was shut down, resumed flights on the eve of the U.S. Thanksgiving.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, in a briefing Wednesday evening, said the FBI investigators were dealing with a complex scene.

“The pieces are scattered over 13, 14 toll booths, so it is a large scene and it will take a lot of time for our federal law enforcement partners.”

PREVIOUS STORY:
A fiery vehicle crash Wednesday on the U.S. side of the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls resulted in the closing of all four border crossings between Niagara and New York state, sparking concerns of a terrorist attack.

Shortly before noon on Nov. 22, a vehicle exploded in the toll booth area on the U.S. side of the bridge.

It was not confirmed at press time which direction the vehicle was travelling but a witness told Buffalo TV station WGRZ that he saw the vehicle speeding down Main Street in Niagara Falls, N.Y., going “100 miles per hour” in the direction of the border.

The witness said the vehicle struck a fence before going airborne and crashing near the toll booths and exploding into flames.

Two people in the vehicle were killed and a border officer was injured.

The crash resulted in the closure of the Queenston-Lewiston, Whirlpool, Rainbow and Peace bridges.

All of the crossings, except for the Rainbow Bridge, were reopened shortly after 5 p.m. Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, which also was shut down, resumed flights on the eve of the U.S. Thanksgiving.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, in a briefing Wednesday evening, played down the fears the crash was an act of terror.

 “We’re not aware of any (terrorist) threats to this area,” she said.

She said investigators are dealing with a complex scene.

“The pieces are scattered over 13, 14 toll booths, so it is a large scene and it will take a lot of time for our federal law enforcement partners.”

The Canada Border Services Agency, meanwhile, said it is working with U.S. officials.

“We are liaising with our U.S. counterparts on this matter. The FBI is leading the ongoing investigation,” the agency posted on X, formerly Twitter.

The Niagara Regional Police said in a news release that they are continuing to monitor the situation but said “there is no known threat on the Canadian side of the Niagara border.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the incident in the House of Commons.

Describing the incident as “a very serious situation,” he said Canadian law enforcement and border officials are offering assistance as the investigation unfolds.

“We were in close contact with U.S. officials and we’ll continue to work closely with them,” he said.

ORIGINAL STORY:

The Queenston-Lewiston Bridge and other border crossings between Niagara and New York State have been closed after an incident at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls.

The other bridges affected include the Whirlpool Bridge in Niagara Falls and the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie.

Shortly before noon, a vehicle exploded in the toll booth area on the U.S. side of the bridge. It has not been confirmed at this time which direction the vehicle was travelling but a witness told Buffalo TV station WGRZ that he saw the vehicle speeding down Main Street in Niagara Falls, NY. going “100 miles per hour” in the direction of the border.

A report by the New York Times said the two occupants of the vehicle were killed in the explosion and that a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer was injured.

The Canada Border Services Agency, meanwhile, said it is working with U.S. officials.

“We are liaising with our U.S. counterparts on this matter. The FBI is leading the ongoing investigation,” the agency posted on X, formerly Twitter.

Niagara Regional Police said in a post on X that it is monitoring the situation but “there is no known threat” on the Canadian side of the border.

The police service added that the public “should expect to see an increased police presence in the area.”

The FBI’s Buffalo field office, meanwhile, said the situation was “very fluid” and could not say more while the investigation proceeds.

Ontario Provincial Police, in conjunction with Niagara Regional Police and Niagara Parks Police have co-ordinated efforts to enforce closures at all the bridges.

Media officer Const. Kerry Schmidt urged residents with any travel plans that include crossing the border “to please delay travel until we know those highways and closures have re-opened.”

New York State governor Kathy Hochul said she had been briefed on the situation and directed New York State police to work with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force to monitor all points of entry into the state.

St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle said Minister of Public Safety Domenic LeBlanc has been informed of the incident and that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been briefed also.

Trudeau addressed the situation during Question Period Wednesday in the House of Commons.

Describing the incident as “A very serious situation,” said “there are a lot of questions that we are following up on to try and get as many answers as rapidly as possible.

“We were in close contact with US officials and we’ll continue to work closely with them,” he said.

Subscribe to our mailing list