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Rainbow Bridge Explosion Kills 2, Closes New York-Canada Border Crossings
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By Associated Press
Published 5 months ago on
November 22, 2023

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NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Two people were found dead in a vehicle that exploded at a checkpoint on the American side of a U.S.-Canada bridge in Niagara Falls on Wednesday, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press.

The official was not authorized to discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The explosion prompted the closing of four border crossings in the area, authorities said.

“This is obviously a very serious situation in Niagara Falls,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Parliament, as he excused himself from Question Period in the House of Commons to be briefed further.

“We are taking this extraordinary seriously,” he added.

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, and the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport began security checks on all cars and told passengers to expect additional screenings.

Trudeau said that “additional measures” were being contemplated and activated at border crossings across Canada.

The FBI’s field office in Buffalo said in a statement that it was investigating the blast, and investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also responding to the scene.

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.

Witness: Car Swerved, Crashed, Exploded

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.

From inside Niagara Falls State Park, Melissa Raffalow said she saw “a huge plume of black smoke” rise up over the border crossing, roughly 50 yardsaway from the popular tourist destination.

“We didn’t hear the explosion because the falls were too loud,” Raffalow told The Associated Press in a message. Police arrived soon after, urging visitors to disperse as they began cordoning off the street.

U.S. Attorney General Attorney General Merrick Garland and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul had been briefed on the situation, their offices said.

The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission reported that all four of its crossings — the others are Lewiston, Whirlpool, and Peace Bridge — were closed.

Debris is scattered about inside the customs plaza at the Rainbow Bridge border crossing, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023, in Niagara Falls, N.Y. The border crossing between the U.S. and Canada has been closed after a vehicle exploded at a checkpoint on a bridge near Niagara Falls. The FBI’s field office in Buffalo said in a statement that it was investigating the explosion on the Rainbow Bridge, which connects the two countries across the Niagara River. (Derek Gee/The Buffalo News via AP)

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