Hochul: no indication of terrorism, so far, in border crossing explosion

Published: Nov. 22, 2023 at 2:05 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BUFFALO, New York (WWNY) - Governor Hochul said late Wednesday afternoon that there is no indication, so far, that the vehicle explosion at the Rainbow Bridge crossing was an act of terrorism.

Hochul’s comments came just after the New York Times reported “Investigators have determined that the incident was not terror-related and they found no explosive devices, according to a law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an open investigation.

“The driver was believed to be a casino player who frequently crossed the U.S.-Canadian border and had no criminal history, the official said. He and his passenger were thought to be Americans,” according to the New York Times.

One of the crossings in western New York that had been closed after the explosion was reopened Wednesday evening.

Hochul’s comments were a marked de-escalation, after a day that left much of the state on edge.

A vehicle exploded at a checkpoint on the American side of a U.S.-Canada bridge in Niagara Falls Wednesday morning, killing the two people inside the car and prompting the closing of four border crossings in the area.

The blast happened on the U.S. side of the Rainbow Bridge, which connects the two countries across the Niagara River. Three other bridges between western New York and Ontario were quickly closed as a precaution.

North country bridges did not close, but were placed on ‘heightened alert.’

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe said to expect “heavier delays at the border” at the Massena-Cornwall border. Currently there are five lanes open at the Cornwall Port, and three lanes at the Massena Port of entry.

CNN law enforcement analyst John Miller reported Wednesday afternoon that he was told a car accelerated to a speed of more than 100 miles an hour and struck a secondary inspection area at the crossing. CNN’s Evan Perez reported there were two people in the car, and both died.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority posted on X, formerly Twitter, that all cars arriving at the Buffalo Airport would undergo security checks. The authority said travelers should also expect additional screenings.

Photos and video taken by bystanders and posted on social media showed thick smoke, flames on the pavement and a security booth that had been singed by flames.

Videos showed that the fire was in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection area just east of the main vehicle checkpoint.

Speaking to WGRZ-TV, Mike Guenther said he saw a vehicle speeding toward the crossing from the U.S. side of the border when it swerved to avoid another car, crashed into a fence and exploded.

“All of a sudden he went up in the air and then it was a ball of fire like 30 or 40 feet high,” Guenther told the station. “I never saw anything like it.”

Ivan Vitalii, a Ukrainian visiting Niagara Falls, told The Niagara Gazette that he and a friend were near the bridge when they “heard something smash.”

“We saw fire and big, black smoke,” he told the newspaper.