Niagara Falls, N.Y. – November 23, 2023
A devastating car explosion at the bustling Rainbow Bridge border crossing, connecting the Canadian and U.S. sides of Niagara Falls, resulted in the loss of two lives on Wednesday. The incident prompted heightened security across the Niagara-Buffalo region, yet New York Governor Kathy Hochul assured the public that there was no indication of terrorism involvement.
The car, described by witnesses as a large sedan, careened down an approach to the New York side of the Rainbow Bridge, colliding with a secondary inspection building. The impact caused a massive explosion, engulfing the area in flames and producing a plume of smoke visible for kilometers. Two occupants in the vehicle tragically lost their lives, and a U.S. border officer sustained injuries in the blast.
During a late afternoon press conference in Buffalo, Governor Hochul stated, “More information could arise, but based on the preliminary investigation, no sign of terrorist involvement in the horrific explosion that occurred here in western New York.” This sentiment was echoed by U.S. law enforcement officials in a separate news conference.
The preliminary findings suggest that the driver, a resident of western New York, may have originated from the vicinity of the Seneca Casino, a few blocks from the border. Governor Hochul emphasized that it was too early to determine the cause of the crash and appealed for calm, stating, “We need to dial down the temperature right now.”
An eyewitness, Mike Guenther from Ontario, reported that the car fishtailed past at high speed, swerving to avoid another vehicle before hitting a fence and going airborne. “Then, all of a sudden, he went up in the air, and then it was like a ball of fire – like, 30 to 40 feet high. I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
The resulting closure of the Rainbow Bridge and a railway line stranded thousands of travelers on both sides of the border. Security measures were ramped up, with the Lewiston, Whirlpool, and Peace Bridge ports of entry temporarily closed, although they have since reopened. Only the Rainbow Bridge crossing and a railway line remain closed as investigations continue.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden were both briefed on the incident earlier in the day when concerns about a potential targeted attack were present. However, Governor Hochul’s announcement, ruling out terrorism, has alleviated some of those fears.
The explosion’s impact reverberated through the Niagara Falls community, a hub for cross-border travel, especially on the eve of U.S. Thanksgiving. Mayor Jim Diodati expressed the profound effect on the region, emphasizing the significance of this time of year for both Canadian and American residents.