Rainbow Bridge explosion: What to know about the US-Canada border blast
Two people inside a speeding car were killed in the explosion that took place on the US side of the Rainbow Bridge that goes across the Niagara River.
Video Duration 00 minutes 44 seconds 00:44Published On 23 Nov 202323 Nov 2023
A speeding car crashed in flames on the bridge linking New York state in the US and Canada’s Ontario province at Niagara Falls on Wednesday, sparking a security scare that closed four US-Canadian border crossings.
Here is what to know:
What happened in the US and when?
On Wednesday, the United States and Canada went on high alert after a car exploded on the American side of a Niagara Falls bridge.
The crash took place a day before Thanksgiving at around 11:30am (16:30 GMT), according to local reports.
The driver and only passenger died in the crash, while a US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer suffered minor injuries. He was treated at a hospital and released, an agency official said later.
Authorities did not identify the two people killed. However, CNN reported the driver was a 56-year-old man who was travelling in a Bentley automobile with his wife to attend a concert in Canada by the rock group KISS, but after it was cancelled, they went to a casino in the US instead.
The crash occurred after the couple left the casino, sources said.
Footage released by the CBP appeared to show a vehicle speeding, then hitting an object and flying into the air before crashing to the ground and exploding in flames.
Where did the explosion happen?
The crash and explosion took place at the checkpoint on the US side of the Rainbow Bridge. The bridge connects the cities of Niagara Falls, Canada and Niagara Falls, US, stretching over the Niagara River.
After the incident, all three other border crossings along the Niagara River between western New York and the Canadian province of Ontario – the Peace Bridge, the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge and the Whirlpool Bridge – were shut for several hours as a precautionary measure.
Was the Rainbow Bridge explosion a ‘terrorist attack’?
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said there was “no indication of a terrorist attack”.
Her comments were echoed by federal and local law enforcement officials at a separate news conference.
The FBI also said in a statement it had concluded its investigation. “A search of the scene revealed no explosive materials, and no terrorism nexus was identified,” the FBI said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
What is the latest on the ground?
The three bridges that were not involved were reopened early Wednesday evening, but the Rainbow Bridge remained closed during the investigation and as officials assessed the crossing’s safety.
The New York City police department has sent NYPD officers upstate to “support efforts on the ground” following the explosion.
Buffalo Niagara International Airport said the airport is open and fully operational, but that travellers should expect additional screenings and security checks following the incident.
Toronto police said they will increase patrols of uniformed officers throughout the city out of an abundance of caution.
What are people saying about the Rainbow Bridge explosion?
Witness Mike Guenther told Buffalo television station WGRZ-TV that he was walking near the bridge with his wife when the car, travelling at high speed, struck a fence at the crossing and was catapulted into the air before exploding.
“He was flying, over 100 miles an hour,” said Guenther, who was visiting from Kitchener, Ontario. He said the vehicle, which he described as a luxury sedan, was “fishtailing” out of control before it crashed.
Photos and videos taken by bystanders and posted on social media showed thick smoke and a security booth that had been singed by flames. Footage showed the fire was in a US CBP area just east of the main vehicle checkpoint.
“This is obviously a very serious situation in Niagara Falls,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Parliament. “We are taking this extraordinary seriously.”
Ivan Vitalii, a Ukrainian visiting Niagara Falls, told The Niagara Gazette newspaper that he and a friend were near the bridge when they “heard something smash”.
“We saw fire and big, black smoke,” he was quoted as saying.