February 22, 2024

Rainbow Bridge explosion: Police use 3D scanning to recreate scene as victims are named

Smoke rises after the Niagara Falls explosion that left two people dead in a vehicle explosion

Police are using 3D scanning technology to help create a “digital crash scene” as the investigation into Wednesday’s vehicle explosion at the Rainbow Bridge continues.

Niagara Falls Police Chief John Faso said the investigation will likely take some time, adding: “This is not something that will happen overnight. It is a monumental task.”

Researchers are now investigating whether a mechanical defect could be the cause. Experts suggest the vehicle’s Event Data Recorder (EDR) – similar to an aircraft’s “black box” – could be key to discovering the cause of the crash.

Robert Restaino, the mayor of Niagara Falls, said The New York Times that the Bentley the couple, identified Friday as Kurt P Villani and Monica Villani, was driving was an older model and may have experienced a mechanical problem that caused it to suddenly accelerate as it approached border control.

Dramatic footage shows the vehicle accelerating before hitting a curb on the US side of the border, becoming airborne and then bursting into flames, killing the pair inside.

The blast immediately raised fears of a terrorist attack, but New York Governor Kathy Hochul and FBI officials later said there was “no sign of terrorist activity.”

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Cause of crash still a mystery

The cause of the Rainbow Bridge explosion remains a mystery.

Some previously speculated that the vehicle’s driver may have suffered a medical emergency, although investigators are now looking into whether a mechanical defect in the car could be the cause.

Robert Restaino, the mayor of Niagara Falls, told The New York Times that the Bentley the couple was driving was an older model and may have experienced a mechanical problem that caused the car 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.

Automotive analyst Laura Fix told NBC affiliate-WGRZ that acceleration data obtained from the vehicle’s Event Data Recorder (EDR) could determine the cause of the crash.

“They could actually see that the driver pressed the accelerator, and not unintentionally, then it could have happened [possibly] a medical problem,” Ms. Fix said.

Mike BediganNovember 25, 2023 6:00 PM

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The Crash couple were ‘ingrained’ in the local community

Scott Henderson, treasurer of the Niagara Sailing Club on Grand Island, told NBC affiliate-WGRZ that the Villanis were “so entrenched and influential in this community.”

The Niagara Sailing Clubhouse, which was severely damaged by a fire in March 2021, and the couple had made multiple donations, both personally and through their business, to help with its renovation.

“Without these people we would never, ever have been able to rebuild this wonderful club to this extent,” Mr Henderson said.

Mike BediganNovember 25, 2023 4:59 PM

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Neighbors of crash couple: ‘They were so loved’

Community members described the crash victims, now identified by authorities as Kurt P. Villani and Monica Villani, as “very friendly, wonderful people.”

Chuck Meyer, a close friend and neighbor, told NBC affiliate WGRZ that he saw several vehicles at the Villani’s home on Wednesday, initially thinking the couple was having an early Christmas or Thanksgiving party.

“About an hour later I heard the news and I was like, oh my God,” he told the outlet.

Mary Meyer said: “It’s really shock and devastation, and it’s just heartbreaking, it really is. They were so loved.”

She added: “They were so generous and kind and always willing to help. You know, just plowing everyone’s driveway for the love of it, you know what I mean? Just always willing to help and lend a hand. Always. always always.

“They were just really friendly, wonderful people.”

Mr. Meyer said, “Without ever being asked, all they did was give gifts, and that’s the kind of people we’ve lost.”

Mike BediganNovember 25, 2023 3:59 PM

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Black box for vehicles ‘crucial’ for investments

Auto analyst Lauren Fix said the Event Data Recorder (EDR) – similar to an aircraft’s ‘black box’, which collects vehicle data to share with manufacturers – may be a crucial piece of evidence in the ongoing investigation into the Rainbow crash Bridge.

“Every vehicle collects your data, that data is shared with the manufacturers,” Ms. Fix told NBC affiliate-WGRZ.

“It knows the steering input, because we have wired steering, and it has information about the throttle,” Fix said. “It would tell you if the pedal was put to the floor.”

Ms. Fix believes the acceleration data collected from the EDR can help investigators narrow down the determining factors of the crash.

“They could actually see the driver pressing the accelerator, not unintentionally, but that could have been the case [possibly] a medical problem,” she told WGRZ. “They will have to make a decision based on the knowledge they have.”

The investigation was turned over to local law enforcement after the FBI determined there was “no sign of terrorist activity.”

Mike BediganNovember 25, 2023 3:30 PM

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3D scanners are used to recreate the Niagara crash scene

According to Niagara Falls Police Chief John Faso, 3D scanners are being used to help create a “digital crash scene” to help discover the cause of the crash at the Rainbow Bridge border crossing.

“They take it to the scene, it scans the scene and reproduces a 3D image that they can work on of the entire scene,” Mr. Faso told NBC affiliate-WGRZ.

Mr Faso added: “This is not something that will happen overnight. It is a monumental task.”

Mike BediganNovember 25, 2023 2:58 PM

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The cause of the Rainbow Bridge explosion remains a mystery, with investigators now investigating whether a mechanical defect in the car could have been the cause.

Robert Restaino, the mayor of Niagara Falls, said The New York Times that the Bentley the couple were driving was an older model and may have had 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.

Whatever the cause, it may take some time to get to the bottom of what happened, as the car was effectively burned by the fireball.

On Thursday, Niagara Falls police — who are now leading the investigation after the FBI found no signs of terrorism — conducted a reconstruction of the crash, including tracing the couple’s last known movements.

At a news conference on Wednesday evening, Ms Hochul said she would not go so far as to label the blast an “accident” as investigations continued, but that the two people killed were local residents with no links to terrorism. No other possible motive had been discovered.

“I want to be very, very clear to Americans and New Yorkers: at this time there is no evidence of a terrorist attack,” Ms. Hochul said.

She added: “Based on what’s happening in the world, everyone is on edge. This is an international border. I wouldn’t call it an accident yet. All we know is that there was a horrific incident, a crash, a loss of life – but at this point: no known terrorist activity.”

The FBI’s Buffalo Division also released a statement saying no explosives were found at the scene and “no connection to terrorism was identified.”

Kelly RissmanNovember 25, 2023 1:00 PM

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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.

Ambulances arrived shortly afterwards and found the vehicle completely burnt out. Two people traveling in the car died, officials said.

Kelly RissmanNovember 25, 2023 12:00 PM

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Mystery as investigators investigate possible cause of Rainbow Bridge crash

The cause of the fatal vehicle explosion at the Rainbow Bridge remains a mystery, with investigators now investigating whether a mechanical defect in the car could have been the cause.

Kurt and Monica Villani, both 53, were killed Wednesday when their speeding Bentley rammed the Niagara Falls border crossing that connects the U.S. and Canada.

The blast immediately raised fears of a terrorist attack, prompting Canadian and U.S. officials to short-circuit all four border bridges between the two countries and ground aircraft at nearby Buffalo Airport.

Hours later, the FBI office in Buffalo and New York Governor Kathy Hochul said there were no signs the incident was terror-related.

Now, two days later, investigators are still working to determine the cause of the deadly crash that has left the couple’s Grand Island community in upstate New York in mourning.

Kelly RissmanNovember 25, 2023 11:00 am

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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.

Kelly RissmanNovember 25, 2023 10:00 am

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Gov. Kathy Hochul said she initially thought the crash was AI-generated

At a press conference earlier this week, the governor said, “You actually had to look at it and say, is 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,” she explained.

They and the FBI have ruled out that the incident was an act of terrorism. The investigation into the cause is ongoing.

Kelly RissmanNovember 25, 2023 9:00 am

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