Two people are dead after a vehicle exploded on the American side of the Canada-U.S. border at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, N.Y. New York Gov. said there was “no indication” that the incident was related to terrorism, despite earlier media reports.
A car in Niagara Falls, N.Y. careened towards the American customs checkpoint, reaching high speeds and at one point going airborne Wednesday morning. The vehicle exploded on impact.
Officials said the vehicle had two occupants who died in the explosion. A border guard was also treated for minor injuries.
All four border crossings between Ontario and western New York were closed initially, but the other three reopened by Wednesday evening.
The nearby Buffalo airport suspended inbound and outbound international flights and put in place enhanced security screening for vehicles arriving at the airport.
American media outlets previously reported that there were explosives in the vehicle and that law enforcement officials were treating it as a terrorism incident, though this was later walked back.
The vehicle collided with screening booth after clearing a median at high speeds from local roads in Niagara Falls, N.Y. The vehicle did not immediately enter the United States from Canada, as was originally suspected by some media reporting.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in the House of Commons that Canadian agencies are “fully engaged” in the response to the incident.
“There are a lot of questions and we are following up to try to get as many answers as rapidly as possible,” Trudeau said. “We are in close contact with U.S. officials and will continue to work closely with them. We will continue to be engaged.”
Trudeau confirmed the closure of the four border crossings and said “additional measures are being contemplated and activated” at other border crossings.
The incident happened at the Rainbow Bridge, which links the two Niagara Falls cities, around 11:20 a.m.
Witnesses reported hearing a loud bang and seeing smoke near the U.S. customs booth.
The authorities did not provide any details about the nature of the incident or the status of the driver, but fire crews said it was a “dangerous situation” that required evacuating the area.
In a statement, the Buffalo field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations said that it was investigating the incident.
“The FBI Buffalo Field Office is investigating a vehicle explosion at the Rainbow Bridge, a border crossing between the U.S. and Canada in Niagara Falls. The FBI is coordinating with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners in this investigation. As this situation is very fluid, that’s all we can say at this time,” wrote the FBI.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford also addressed the incident on Wednesday afternoon saying that the Ontario Provincial Police were involved in the response.
Several police agencies, including the Niagara Falls Police Department and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, responded to the scene and cordoned off the bridge.
The closure of the Rainbow Bridge also affected the other three border crossings in the region: the Peace Bridge, the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, and the Whirlpool Bridge.
All of them were closed to traffic in both directions until further notice, creating long delays for travelers on the eve of Thanksgiving.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said she was aware of the situation and that state agencies were ready to assist if needed.
“I’ve been briefed on the incident on the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls and we are closely monitoring the situation,” she said in a statement.
“State agencies are on site and ready to assist.”
This is a developing story that will be updated as more information is made available.