Smoke rises after the Niagara Falls explosion that left two people dead in a vehicle explosion
Police in Niagara Falls have warned the public about the dangers of misinformation about the deadly crash at the Rainbow Bridge border crossing.
Kurt and Monica Villani, both 53 years old and from Grand Island, New York, were killed last Wednesday when their speeding Bentley rammed the border crossing that connects the US and Canada.
The blast immediately raised fears of a terrorist attack, but officials later ruled this out.
Now, investigators are still working to determine the cause of the fatal crash, with authorities looking into the possibility of a mechanical malfunction of the car or a medical emergency involving the driver.
Police are also using 3D scanning technology to help create a “digital crash scene.”
While information remains scarce, Niagara’s police chief has addressed the rampant speculation that is causing “significant and unnecessary concern” within the local community.
“We saw a tremendous amount of misinformation and speculation on both mainstream and social media platforms, causing significant and unnecessary fear in the community,” he said.
The blast could have been caused by a “fuel-air explosion,” a former official said
Scott Sweetow, former director of the FBI’s Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center, told CBS News that the eruption may have been the result of a “fuel-air explosion.”
“I speculate that because of the high speed of the car and its near disintegration [the car]that as the fuel in the broken gas tank moved forward at high speed, it mixed with the air and almost created a cloud of gasoline, which then ignited, creating the dramatic fireball we all saw,” he told the outlet.
Ariana BaioNovember 28, 2023 7:00 am
Watch: Vehicle explodes after crash on Rainbow Bridge
Vehicle explodes after crashing on Rainbow Bridge
Ariana BaioNovember 28, 2023 4:00 am
A statement from the family
The Villanis own Gui’s Lumber, a chain store in western New York. CBC contacted the company:
“We would like to express our sincere thanks for all this [have] extended prayers, condolences and good wishes. We are deeply affected. At this point we would request privacy so that we can begin the healing process,” the statement said
Ariana BaioNovember 28, 2023 2:00 am
ICYMI: Two dead in car explosion in Niagara that closed US-Canada border
New York’s governor says there is “no sign of terrorism” in the violent vehicle explosion that killed two people and injured a border patrol agent at the Rainbow Bridge crossing between the United States and Canada in New York, near Niagara Falls .
Governor Kathy Hochul told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that there was no evidence of any terror planning and that further investigation into what happened would continue.
Ariana BaioNovember 28, 2023 12:00 AM
What was the cause of the fatal accident?
The cause of the crash is still unknown, but officials have ruled out that it was caused by a terrorist act.
Others have speculated that it was caused by the Bentley the couple was driving.
Robert Restaino, the mayor of Niagara Falls, said The New York Times that the Bentley was an older model and may have experienced a mechanical problem that caused it to suddenly accelerate as it approached border control.
However, a spokesperson for the American arm of Bentley Motors told the newspaper that the automaker had not yet heard from investigators about the incident.
We may not know exactly what happened for a while. “Due to the complexity of the incident, the investigation will take some time,” Niagara Falls police said.
Ariana BaioNovember 27, 2023 10:00 PM
Thanksgiving travel affected by Rainbow Bridge explosion
The incident occurred at a time of heightened fear of a possible terrorist attack. Ms Hochul warned days earlier that officials had detected increased rumors of a possible terror attack in the state due to unrest in the Middle East.
The White House said in a statement that President Biden was “closely following developments.” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland was briefed on the developing situation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also responded to the scene.
Mr. Trudeau said officials in Canada are “taking this extremely seriously.”
“This is clearly a very serious situation in Niagara Falls,” Trudeau told the Canadian parliament on Wednesday afternoon.
The FBI’s Buffalo field office said in a statement that it led the local, state and federal response until it determined there was no terrorism threat. It then turned the investigation over to the Niagara Falls Police Department.
Officials closed four U.S.-Canada border crossings in New York: the Rainbow Bridge, Peace Bridge, Whirlpool Bridge and Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.
Amtrak also temporarily suspended cross-border service between New York and Canada.
The Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo said it would close until after Thanksgiving “out of an abundance of caution.”
International departures and arrivals at Buffalo Niagara International Airport were paused, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. It was reopened a few hours later.
Travelers arriving at the airport were warned to expect additional screenings, while vehicles would undergo additional security checks.
“Buffalo and Niagara Falls airports are fully operational. We recommend that travelers spend time on these extra precautions in addition to holiday travel,” the travel agency said on X.
Three of the four bridge crossings reopened on Wednesday afternoon, with only the Rainbow Bridge remaining closed. It reopened on Thursday afternoon.
The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority said security would be increased throughout the area.
Ariana BaioNovember 27, 2023 8:00 PM
Watch: Niagara police chief warns against misinformation after Rainbow Bridge crash
Niagara police chief warns against misinformation after Rainbow Bridge crash
Ariana BaioNovember 27, 2023 6:00 PM
What we know about the Rainbow Bridge explosion
Two people were killed after a vehicle exploded at a U.S.-Canada border crossing at Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls on Wednesday, Nov. 22.
The car was trying to enter Canada from the United States when it sped toward a checkpoint, crashed into a fence and erupted “in a fireball” just before noon, witnesses said.
At 11:50 a.m. ET, the Rainbow Bridge was closed due to a “traffic event,” according to an incident alert from the Niagara International Transportation Technology Coalition.
Witness Mike Guenther told the NBC affiliate WGRZ TV that he had been walking on the bridge when he saw a speeding car approach the border checkpoint, hit a fence and go airborne before exploding.
Another witness told reporters he saw the vehicle burst into flames before seeing black smoke and flames.
Video footage and photos showed flames and thick black smoke pouring from the checkpoint, and a security booth charred by flames.
Ambulances arrived shortly afterwards and found the vehicle completely burnt out. Two people traveling in the car died, officials said.
Bevan HurleyNovember 27, 2023 4:00 PM
Niagara Falls police identify couple killed in crash
The couple who tragically died in the Rainbow Bridge crossing crash have now been identified.
Kurt Villani, 53, and his wife Monica Villani, 53, were residents of Grand Island, New York, Niagara Falls police announced Friday.
“The City of Niagara Falls would like to extend our sincere condolences to the families coping with this tragedy,” police said in a statement.
Although little is known about the couple at this time, an obituary for Kurt Villani’s father revealed that the couple has two children.
The couple had planned to attend a KISS concert in Toronto on Wednesday, but the performance was canceled when frontman Paul Stanley fell ill with the flu.
Kelly RissmanNovember 27, 2023 3:00 PM
Video captures the speeding car before the crash
Mike BediganNovember 27, 2023 2:00 PM