On Wednesday, November 22, at the border crossing between the United States and Canada in the Niagara Falls area the car exploded. The viaduct leading to the United States from Canada and the checkpoints had to be closed until the circumstances were clarified. The FBI investigated the incident believing it was a terrorist attack. According to CNN, a New York couple was in the car that exploded on the US-Canada bridge.
After the incident, the alarm was raised on the American side of the Rainbow Bridge from New York to Washington. Investigators believe the couple were driving a Bentley at high speed when they hit a curb at a security checkpoint, then hit a guardrail, sending the car flying into the air and into the security checkpoint, where it exploded.
Despite initial fears that it was a terrorist attack, the FBI found no connection to terrorism and no explosives were found at the scene. The case was handed over to local police as a traffic accident investigation.
“I want to be very clear to Americans and New Yorkers: at this time there is no indication of a terrorist attack. Two people were killed in the car,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said, noting that the car belonged to a Western New York resident.
Investigators believe the man who died was planning to attend a KISS concert in Canada, but when it was cancelled, he went to a casino in the United States. According to sources, the accident occurred some time after the couple left the casino.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” Hochul said Wednesday about the vehicle's occupants. She said it was unclear whether the accident was an accident or an intentional act.
The explosion forced the temporary closure of all four highway bridges between Canada and the United States in the Niagara Falls area on one of the busiest days of the year. Three of them opened later on the same day, but the Rainbow Bridge remains closed.
'Almost like a movie'
The vehicle was traveling at an “extremely high speed” when it approached the border crossing around 11:30 a.m. and crashed into the barrier, Hochul said.
She clarified that the impact caused the car to fly several meters into the air, after which it crashed into a customs and border control booth and caught fire. Hochul described the footage of the incident as “absolutely surreal.” According to her, the car “practically burned down,” and pieces of the broken car were scattered across more than a dozen checkpoint booths. An employee working in one of them received minor injuries.
One witness, Ricky Wilson, saw the car fly past him “almost like something out of a movie” and for a moment thought it was a plane.
After the crash, federal investigators began to quickly determine whether the incident was an act of terrorism. Within hours, officials shared preliminary findings and assured the public that they had found no evidence of terrorist motivation.
“But we will continue to be vigilant. We will continue to ensure that the information we have is shared with the public,” U.S. Attorney Trini Ross of the Western District of New York said at a news conference.
The explosion prompted heightened security measures in the region, including the evacuation of local government offices on the American side.
Buffalo Niagara International Airport was closed to incoming and outgoing international flights, but the restriction was later lifted, the Federal Aviation Administration said. All vehicles arriving at the airport are screened by bomb-sniffing dogs, according to a Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority spokesman.
Amtrak has temporarily suspended part of its cross-border route connecting New York to Toronto.
FBI Special Agent Matthew Miraglia said Wednesday afternoon that investigators were looking for one person but, working through the Joint Terrorism Task Force, did not find any information that would raise suspicion.
“We do not have any suspicious information about this person that we have identified,” he said. – We scan his social networks, there is nothing there. In addition, we are conducting a full investigation, so this is a preliminary assessment.”
By Wednesday evening, the FBI announced it had completed its investigation at the scene and transferred the case to the Niagara Falls Police Department as a traffic investigation.