Rainbow Bridge: ‘No indication’ of terrorist attack, Hochul says

Rainbow Bridge

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Two people died and a Border Patrol officer was injured when a vehicle exploded Wednesday at the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls between the U.S. and Canada, The Associated Press reported. Officials closed down the Rainbow Bridge and the other three spans in the Niagara area, according to The New York Times.

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Hochul: ‘No indication of terrorist attack’

Update 5:19 p.m. EST Nov. 22: During a news conference Wednesday evening, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said that “at this time,” there was “no indication of a terrorist attack.”

Hochul said one of the people in the vehicle was a resident of western New York, adding that the Border Patrol officer injured at the Rainbow Bridge had been treated and released.

Hochul said she watched the video of the vehicle going airborne into the border inspection booth and called it “horrific” and “surreal.”

“After watching the vehicle, I had to ask myself if it was generated by AI,” Hochul said. “The vehicle was incinerated.”

The governor added that the motorist was traveling at an “extraordinarily high rate of speed” before the vehicle crashed into a median and flew over an 8-foot-high fence.

“We plan to dial down the temperature,” Hochul said, adding the caveat that the investigation was ongoing. “All is well.”

Hochul added that the Peace and Lewiston-Queenston Bridges have reopened to traffic.

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Border Patrol officer treated, released

Update 4:54 p.m. EST Nov. 22: Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center has treated and released “a single patient with non-life-threatening injuries” from the incident, Sean Dwyer, the hospital’s marketing director, told The Buffalo News. Dwyer confirmed that the patient was a Border Patrol agent, according to the newspaper.

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

‘Like something you see in Hollywood’

Update 4:47 p.m. EST Nov. 22: Rickie Wilson, 65, said he saw the speeding car leave the ground as it crashed. “It hit a concrete barrier and went up,” the tour guide said, according to The New York Times. “It came down and hit an inspection booth. Then there was a lot of black smoke, and then a fire.

“I know I sound crazy, but the car was in the air. And not three or four feet in the air. It was like something you see in Hollywood.”

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

All 4 bridges in Niagara area shut down

Update 4:04 p.m. EST Nov. 22: The four bridges connecting the U.S. to Canada have been closed after the explosion at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, New York, The New York Times reported.

In addition to the Rainbow Bridge, the Peace Bridge, Whirlpool Bridge and Lewiston-Queenston Bridges have been closed to traffic, according to the newspaper.

The office of New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said vehicles and people going into the airports in Niagara Falls and nearby Buffalo will undergo “increased security checks, explosive detection, and increased screenings.”

Hochul also announced that the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force is working alongside the New York State Police to monitor all points of entry into the Empire State, WGRZ-TV reported.

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

President Biden briefed

Update 3:20 p.m. EST, Nov. 22: President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation and is “closely following developments,” the White House said, according to the AP.

Surveillance video

Update 2:53 p.m. EST, Nov. 22: There were conflicting reports as to whether the car was entering the U.S. from Canada, or Canada from the U.S. Initially it was reported on CNN that the car was entering the U.S. from Canada. But surveillance video showed the car on local U.S. roads before it was at the checkpoint, sped up and hit a curb, launching into the air.

ABC News reported that a suitcase or briefcase was found at the scene and is being treated as a possible explosive device.

NBC News reported that officials are trying to determine if the incident was intentional.

Two people in vehicle

Update 2:32 p.m. EST, Nov. 22: CNN reported that law enforcement officials confirmed that there were two occupants in the car and are deceased. Officials are unsure if the crash was intentional, a mechanical issue or a medical issue that caused it, CNN reported on air.

The AP reported that along with the FBI, investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are responding.

Canadian officials provide update

Update 2:24 p.m. EST, Nov. 22: Canadian Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said officials are “ensuring that border crossings can operate safely” and are working with the American counterparts to find out what happened. He said there no word of a risk to those living in Canada, CNN reported on air.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country is in close contact with U.S. officials and has confirmed that the four bridges connecting the U.S. and Canada are currently closed but will evaluate if more measures need to be taken. He made the statement while updating the Canadian Parliament on the situation.

Original report: The FBI’s Buffalo Field Office said it is investigating a vehicle explosion at the border crossing and is working with local, state and federal law enforcement.

The FBI gave no other details.

The Associated Press reported that the vehicle exploded at a checkpoint just east of the main vehicle checkpoint.

WGRZ said an eyewitness noticed a vehicle speeding to the crossing from the U.S. side. It swerved to miss another vehicle and crashed into a fence before exploding.

“All of a sudden he went up in the air and then it was a ball of fire like 30 or 40 feet high,” Mike Guenther told WGRZ.

Photos and videos show a security booth that has burn marks on it, the AP reported.

The Niagara International Transportation Technology Coalition said it was a crash, CNN reported. But the Niagra Falls mayor’s office said a vehicle was trying to enter the U.S. side of the border.

“We don’t really know too much – just that there was a vehicle trying to come into the US and they shut down both sides of the bridge,” Aaron Ferguson told CNN.

Witnesses told the Niagara Gazette that they heard a loud noise that sounded like an explosion and then saw smoke near the inspection station.

The Niagara Gazette reported that two people in the car were killed, while a border protection agent was injured but not badly.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said she has been briefed adding, “At my direction, the New York State Police is actively working with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to monitor all points of entry to New York. I am traveling to Buffalo to meet with law enforcement and emergency responders and will update New Yorkers when more information becomes available,” WHEC reported.

Because of the apparent explosion, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority said that security will be increased at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and throughout the system, NBC News reported. Travelers should expect additional screenings and vehicles entering the airport area will have security checks performed.

WHEC reported that the Peace Bridge is also closed to and from Canada.

The Lewiston and Whirlpool bridges are also closed.

Check back for more on this developing story.