Vehicle explosion on the Rainbow Bridge initially investigated as a terrorist attack - so what really happened?

According to Fox News, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating a vehicle explosion that happened at the Rainbow Bridge border crossing between the United States and Canada. 

The bridge connects Niagara Falls, New York to Niagara Falls, Canada, and officials stated that the car was heading from the U.S. to Canada and it was going in the direction of the border officer building. All bridges were closed in the surrounding area as investigators began gathering evidence.

Initial investigations indicated that the incident was being treated as a possible terrorist attack due to the explosion being so big and fierce. However, ABC News reported that Governor Kathy Hochul said that there is no evidence that the crash and explosion was a terrorist attack. 

At a news conference, she said that there was no indication any explosives were found at the scene. She said, "There is no evidence at this time that this was a terrorist activity and that's what I want to make very clear to the public. The incident happened at 11:27 a.m., on Wednesday, November 22nd, when a vehicle sped toward a border checkpoint at the U.S. side of the bridge, hit a booth, exploded and went airborne. 

She said that a "local individual" was involved and that both people inside of the vehicle died. Hochul said, "You actually had to look at it and say, 'Was this generated by A.I.?' because it was so surreal to see how high in the air this vehicle went and then the crash and explosion and the fire."

One booth agent was injured in the incident and was treated for their injuries at a local hospital. That individual was later released. When speaking about the incident, the governor said, "It was a very congested area. It could have been very cataclysmic."

Kurt P. Villani and his wife Monica Villani, both 53, died in the car crash on the US side of the Rainbow Bridge crossing.  The Niagara Falls Police Department said in a news release that the couple lived in Grand Island, New York.

International border crossing points between Canada and Western New York were closed after the incident. The FBI said in a statement, "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."

For several hours after the incident, the Peace, Queenston-Lewiston and Whirlpool-Rapids Bridges in Canada were shut down. Later in the evening they all reopened to traffic in both directions. Shortly after the incident, Ron Rienas, the general manager of the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority said that all four Canada-U.S. bridges over the Niagara River were closed out of an "abundance of caution" while the Rainbow Bridge investigation continues.

The Buffalo Niagara International Airport said that it was increasing security, with car checks and additional screenings for travelers. 

Hochul said that the investigation would take some time as a large portion of the vehicle was destroyed and debris was scattered over 13 booths. She added, "There is not a license plate." Sources familiar with the incident told ABC News that investigators found some sort of suitcase or briefcase on the scene.

As precaution, they treated it as a possible explosive device and the bomb squad handled the package. FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Matthew Miraglia said that they have a "subject in mind" for the driver of the car and that there is no further threat to the area.

U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross said that the FBI's initial assessment is that the incident is not terrorism related. Ross said, "We will continue to investigate, but our preliminary assessment of the situation is that it was not terrorism related. 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."

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said that the New York Police Department (NYPD) has enhanced their security. He said in a statement, "The NYPD and our team have been closely monitoring the situation on the ground in Buffalo after an explosion at the Rainbow Bridge and we've already sent NYPD officers upstate to support efforts on the ground."

He added, "The NYPD and our partners have already enhanced security and the city is on heightened alert due to the upcoming holiday. So, the public will see increased security at locations across New York City, including entry and egress points into and out of the city."

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), said in a statement that he too is closely monitoring the situation in Buffalo. He said, "I'm closely monitoring the situation on the Rainbow Bridge crossing between the U.S. and Canada in Niagara Falls. Federal, state and local law enforcement officials are on the ground and investigating. Follow guidance from emergency officials. Thank you to our brave first responders."

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau informed the country's parliament that they were looking into the incident. He said in a statement, "We are taking this extraordinarily seriously. We are following up to try and get as many answers as rapidly as possible ... Additional measures are being contemplated and activated at all border crossings across the country."

 
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