FBI ends investigation of car wreck at Niagara Falls bridge, no indication of terrorism

Border Crossing Explosion
In this photo taken from security video, a light colored vehicle, top left, travels toward the Rainbow Bridge customs plaza, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023, in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A vehicle exploded at a checkpoint on the American side of a U.S.-Canada bridge in Niagara Falls Wednesday, leaving two people dead and prompting the closing of four border crossings in the area, authorities said.
Customs Border Protection via AP

The FBI has ended its investigation of a fiery car wreck that killed two people at a border checkpoint in Niagara Falls after finding no evidence that it was a terror attack, easing a period of high tensions as Americans headed into the Thanksgiving holiday.

The FBI's decision late Wednesday came several hours after the vehicle raced through an intersection, hit a median and was launched through the air before slamming into a line of booths and exploding at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls. Local police are now handling the case as a traffic investigation.

"A search of the scene revealed no explosive materials, and no terrorism nexus was identified,” the FBI's Buffalo office said in a statement. “The matter has been turned over to the Niagara Falls Police Department as a traffic investigation.”

The investigation has been taken over by the Niagara Falls Police Department’s Crash Management Unit, according to a news release from the city's police department, which added “Due to the complexity of the incident, the investigation will take some time to complete.”

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The two people who died were a husband and wife, according to a person briefed on the investigation who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information about the people who were killed. The identities of those in the car have not yet been released.

The crash prompted the closure of the Rainbow Bridge and three other bridges connecting western New York and Ontario, as federal officials swarmed the area and both U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received briefings. Hours later, officials sought to calm concerns on what is one the busiest travel days of the year.

“Based on what we know at this moment,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a news conference, “there is no sign of terrorist activity in this crash.”

Hochul, a Democrat, said the car was “basically incinerated” with nothing left but the engine and a scattering of charred debris. Later Wednesday night, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said investigators had found “no connection to any terrorist or criminal group. He added that there was no evidence of chemicals or substances used in explosives during investigators' swabbing of the scene.

The Rainbow Bridge has about 6,000 vehicles cross it each day, according to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inventory.

Witness Rickie Wilson, a Niagara Falls tour guide, was by his parked car nearby and turned around when he saw something in the air.

“I first thought it was an airplane. It looked like slow motion,” he said. “I said, ‘My God, it’s a car. It’s a vehicle, and it’s flying through the air.’”