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No sign of terrorism in blast that killed 2 at U.S.-Canada border in Niagara Falls, governor says

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Police blockade roads after an incident at the Rainbow Bridge U.S. border crossing with Canada, in Niagara Falls, New York, U.S. November 22, 2023.
Lindsay DeDario | Reuters

Two people were killed in an explosion at the Canadian border where an “airborne” car crashed into a checkpoint at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls on Wednesday, officials said.

So far, there are no immediate signs of terrorism, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters.

“At this time, there is no indication of a terrorist attack,” she said. “Let me repeat that: At this time, there is no indication of a terrorist-involved attack here at the Rainbow Bridge in Western New York.”

The two people who were killed were in the car that crashed, and at least one of them was from western New York.

The car, which officials have said was traveling at a high rate of speed, was on the U.S. side of the border when it crashed, caught fire and exploded, contrary to some early reports that the vehicle had come from Canada.

Hochul said she’s seen video of the car that was going at an “extraordinarily high rate of speed” before it went flying in an “absolutely surreal” scene.

“When you see this video, your jaw will drop in disbelief at how this went so high, over an 8-foot-high fence,” she said.

Firefighters view the scene after an incident at the Rainbow Bridge U.S. border crossing with Canada, in Niagara Falls, New York, U.S. November 22, 2023 in a still image from video. REUTERS/Reuters TV

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Rickie Wilson, who works for Gray Line Tours, couldn’t believe his eyes when he spotted the “airborne” vehicle. He said it appeared the car struck a cement median before it went flying.

“I first thought it was an airplane. Looked like slow motion,” Wilson told Rochester NBC affiliate WHEC. “And I said, ‘My God, it’s a car and it’s a vehicle and it’s flying through the air.’ “

The witness estimated the car was 10 to 15 feet in the air.

“I mean how did it get up there? I mean this thing was up in the air,” Wilson told reporters. “I know it sounds like I’m crazy, but the car was airborne and not three or four feet, I mean it was up there.”

A Customs and Border Protection employee suffered minor injuries and was treated and released from a hospital, a law enforcement official said.

An initial search did not find a secondary explosive or device, the law enforcement officials said, noting this was preliminary information.

Authorities are investigating whether the crash was intentional.

Hochul at a news conference called the incident “a horrific accident that led to a high-level anxiety all the way from western New York to Albany, to Washington.”

It occurred on one of the busiest travel days in the United States, when people across the country will be hitting the road for the Thanksgiving holiday.

All western New York bridge crossings into the U.S. were shut down following the incident, the Erie County executive said shortly after the crash, but Hochul later said all bridges had been reopened.

Firefighters view the scene after an incident at the Rainbow Bridge U.S. border crossing with Canada, in Niagara Falls, New York, U.S. November 22, 2023 in a still image from video. REUTERS/Reuters TV
REUTERS/Reuters TV

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said security has been increased and the “city is on heightened alert due to the upcoming holiday.”

The White House was also closely monitoring the situation, an official said. The Canada Border Services Agency said it was “liaising with our U.S. counterparts on this matter.”

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority said it would be increasing security systemwide.

Travelers at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport should expect additional screenings and vehicles coming into the airport will undergo security checks, it said.

“The Buffalo and Niagara Falls Airports are fully operational. We advise travelers to give themselves time for these extra precautions in addition to holiday travel,” the agency said in a post on X.

Amtrak also announced on Wednesday that train service between the U.S. and Canada was temporarily suspended.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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