The governor of New York state says there’s no indication terrorism is tied to a car that hit a median at breakneck speed, soared through the air, crashed and exploded, killing two people Wednesday at a Canada-U.S. border checkpoint in Niagara Falls.
“There is no evidence at this time that this was a terrorist activity,” Gov. Kathy Hochul told a news conference hours after the explosion just before noon at the entrance to the Rainbow Bridge.
“That’s what I want to make very clear to the public, just to calm everybody down,” said Hochul. “It’s really important, because based on what’s happening in other parts of the world, everybody is on edge. And this is an international border.”
She said the investigation continues but, based on briefings with FBI, Homeland Security and other officials, there is “no known terrorist connection.”
Hochul added there are no hallmarks of terrorism, such as threat notes or a group taking public credit.
The two people who died were in the vehicle, she said, and one was from western New York state.
The car hit the median at such a speed that it became airborne, clearing a tall fence before crashing, said Hochul.
“They crashed into a customs and border patrol booth,” she said.
“The car and the booth immediately exploded (and) burst into flames. I saw the video of an airborne vehicle that was absolutely surreal.
“Your jaw will drop in disbelief and how this went so high over an eight-foot fence. It’s rather extraordinary.”
She said a border patrol worker, protected from the crash by a booth, received minor injuries and was released from hospital.
The Rainbow Bridge will remain closed, she said, as investigators investigate a large debris field.
“This vehicle basically incinerated. Nothing is left but the engine. The pieces are scattered over 13, 14 booths. So it is a large scene.”
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The crash happened during a period of heightened global tensions and the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, and had officials on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border taking emergency precautions.
Canada’s Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc called it a “violent circumstance” and a source of concern for both countries, but warned against speculation in the absence of more details.
“Any time a piece of infrastructure as important to Canada and the United States, like a border crossing, sees this kind of violent circumstance, it’s a source of concern for the Government of Canada and for the United States,” said LeBlanc.
“We’re taking this circumstance very seriously. But to speculate on the origin of this particular circumstance — the reasons why this may have happened — until we have more accurate information, is simply not responsible.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2023.