By Caden Pearson
The crash and explosion at a U.S.-Canadian border checkpoint at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls was not a terrorist attack, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in an update on Wednesday evening.
“At this time, there is no indication of a terrorist attack,” Ms. Hochul told reporters. “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.”
Two people were killed in the incident, including the driver of the vehicle, who is believed to be a resident of New York. The blast prompted the closure of several border crossings for hours.
The governor couldn’t confirm the origin of the vehicle, which was traveling at an extremely high speed before it crashed into a median at 11:27 a.m. on Wednesday and became airborne. The vehicle is suspected to have come from the vicinity of a casino.
“It’s a Western New York resident who was most likely in that vicinity prior to the extraordinarily high rate of speed that led to the crash into the median that sent the vehicle airborne,” the governor said.
FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Matthew Miraglia said the agency didn’t have “any derogatory information” on the driver, leading investigators from the Joint Terrorism Task Force to believe there are “no indications of a threat of terrorism.”
“We’re scanning his social media, there’s nothing there. We’re still running a full investigation so that’s a preliminary assessment,” Mr. Miraglia told reporters. “We feel, at this point, this might be just something that occurred, there’s no larger picture here to look at for now.”
The car crashed into a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol booth, and both “immediately exploded.” A Customs and Border Protection (CBP) worker inside the booth was injured and taken to a hospital, the governor said.
Ms. Hochul added that video footage of the crash, which has since been released by CBP, was “surreal” and hard to believe.
“I saw the video of an airborne vehicle that was absolutely surreal,” the governor said. “You actually had to look at it and say, ‘Was this generated by AI?’ Because it was so surreal to see how high in the air this vehicle went, and then the crash, and the explosion, and the fire.”
CBP security camera footage showed the vehicle speeding through an intersection, hitting a low median, before launching into the air just east of the main vehicle checkpoint. The car was airborne several yards (meters) before it crashed out of the camera’s view.
The vehicle was “basically incinerated,” leaving nothing “left but the engine,” not even “a license plate,” the governor added, noting that she had been briefed by New York State Police and other law enforcement officials.
The crash has created a large investigation scene that’s “going to take a lot of time for federal law enforcement partners” to assess as they “piece together the whole story.”
The Rainbow Bridge border crossing is one of the busiest crossing points, both in New York and along the U.S.-Canadian border.
The incident raised alarms given its proximity to Thanksgiving and in the wake of the Hamas cross-border attack in Israel on Oct. 7, prompting authorities to spring into action, the governor noted. Earlier, Ms. Hochul directed the New York State Police, who are working with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, to monitor all points of entry to New York.
The governor, noting the anxiety the incident has caused, said that White House officials, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and state Congress members have contacted her office.
“That’s why it’s so important for me to stand here and tell the world, based on what we know at this moment—and again, anything can change—there is no sign of terrorist activity with respect to this crash,” the governor said.
The FBI’s Buffalo, New York, office said earlier on Wednesday that it was investigating the crash and was coordinating with local officials.
International flights arriving and departing from Buffalo Niagara International Airport, which the Federal Aviation Administration paused in the wake of the incident, have since resumed, the agency confirmed.