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Rainbow Bridge crash: Niagara Falls police warn against misinformation

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 and from Grand Island, New York, were killed last Wednesday when their speeding Bentley rammed into the border crossing, which connects the US and Canada.

The blast instantly sparked fears of a terrorist attack, but officials later ruled this out.

Now, investigators are still working to piece together what caused the deadly crash with authorities probing the possibility of a mechanical failure on 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 scant, Niagara police chief of police hit out at the rampant speculation which is causing “significant and unnecessary anxiety” within the local community.

“We saw an immense amount of misinformation and speculation on both mainstream and social media platforms, which created significant and unnecessary anxiety in the community,” he said.

Key Points

  • New York couple killed in Rainbow Bridge explosion ‘planned to go to KISS concert’

  • Casino where car stopped before crash cooperating with police

  • Dramatic surveillance footage captures fiery car crash

  • New York Governor Hochul says ‘no sign of terrorist activity’

Video captures the speeding car ahead of the crash

14:00 , Mike Bedigan

Police use 3D scanners to create ‘digital crash scene’ following Rainbow Bridge explosion

13:00 , Mike Bedigan

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

Read the full story here:

Police use 3D scanners to create ‘digital crash scene’ following Niagara explosion

Police guard the Rainbow Bridge in the aftermath of the crash

12:00 , Mike Bedigan

Police stand guard as the Peace Bridge, one of four major crossings into the US from Canada, is closed after a car crashed and exploded at The Rainbow Bridge on 22 November 2023 (Getty Images)
Police stand guard as the Peace Bridge, one of four major crossings into the US from Canada, is closed after a car crashed and exploded at The Rainbow Bridge on 22 November 2023 (Getty Images)
Homeland Security, Border Patrol, and local authorities block traffic to the Rainbow Bridge, one of four major crossings between the U.S. and Canada that is closed after a car crashed and exploded at the bridge on 22 November 2023 (Getty Images)
Homeland Security, Border Patrol, and local authorities block traffic to the Rainbow Bridge, one of four major crossings between the U.S. and Canada that is closed after a car crashed and exploded at the bridge on 22 November 2023 (Getty Images)
A member of the Border Patrol stands guard as Homeland Security, Border Patrol, and local authorities block traffic to the Rainbow Bridge (Getty Images)
A member of the Border Patrol stands guard as Homeland Security, Border Patrol, and local authorities block traffic to the Rainbow Bridge (Getty Images)

Right-wing figures bashed for rushing to label crash a terrorist attack

11:00 , Mike Bedigan

A number of right-wing figures quickly branded the crash a “terrorist attack,” sparking criticism.

Senator Ted Cruz also claimed the incident was a terror attack, tweeting: “This confirms our worst fear: the explosion at Rainbow Bridge was a terrorist attack.”

Congressman Byron Donalds also chimed in. “Today’s apparent terrorist attack must be a wake-up call to all Americans. Now—more than ever—we need a change in leadership in our nation,” he said. “As authorities respond to this ongoing situation, I extend my prayers to all those impacted by this terror and pray for our great nation.”

Florida Senator Rick Scott and presidential contender Vivek Ramaswamy, as well as Donald Trump Jr, among others, also suggested the explosion was a terrorist incident, linking it to border enforcement policies.

CNN reporter Oliver Darcy criticized Fox News’ initial “terrorist attack” reporting in an interview with Abby Phillip on Wednesday.

“This was irresponsible reporting, this was reckless reporting and by all accounts, it was inaccurate reporting,” he said, adding that it was reported “for hours” and the network sent out a push alert on the terrorism report.

Political strategist Lindy Li also criticised Fox News, tweeting: “Contrary to what Fox News wants you to believe the car explosion on the Rainbow Bridge was NOT a terrorist attack but a terrible accident,” she said.

“Trump’s violent insurrection against our Capitol WAS a terrorist attack and NOT a normal tourist visit. Learn the b****y difference.”

Who were the two people killed in the blast?

09:00 , Mike Bedigan

Law enforcement sources told CNN on Wednesday night that the Rainbow Bridge crash is believed to have involved a local New York individual and a passenger who had planned to attend a KISS concert in Toronto, Canada.

The concert was cancelled earlier in the day due to frontman, Paul Stanley, falling ill with the flu.

Police identified the couple on Friday as Kurt P Villani and Monica Villani, both 53; they lived in Grand Island, New York. They are survived by two children, according to an obiturary for the husband’s father.

The Villanis own Gui’s Lumber, a business with eight locations across western New York.

In a statement to CBC, the business wrote: “We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all that [have] extended prayers, condolences and well wishes. We are deeply touched. At this point, we would request privacy so we may begin the process of healing.”

Read the full story...

What we know about the deadly Rainbow Bridge explosion

Niagara police chief warns against misinformation following Rainbow Bridge crash

07:00 , Mike Bedigan

Niagara Region’s chief of police, Bryan MacCulloch, said that although the incident was quickly confirmed to be non-terrorist related, speculation in the mainstream media and online had caused “significant and unnecessary anxiety” within the local community.

Niagara police chief warns against misinformation following Rainbow Bridge crash

Watch: NY Gov. Kathy Hochul says ‘no sign’ of terror activity at Niagara Falls border crash

05:01 , Mike Bedigan

Tributes pour in for couple killed in fiery crash on Rainbow Bridge

03:00 , Mike Bedigan

The couple were named by police on Friday as Kurt P Villani and Monica Villani, though devastated friends, neighbours and loved ones in the upstate New York community of Grand Island knew the victims’ identities before they were officially confirmed.

Tributes pour in for couple killed in fiery crash on Rainbow Bridge

What happened at Rainbow Bridge?

01:00 , Mike Bedigan

At 11.50am 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 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 that he had seen the vehicle catch fire, before seeing black smoke and flames.

Ambulances arrived soon afterward to find the vehicle completely burned out. Two individuals travelling in the car died, officials said.

Cause of crash still a mystery

00:00 , Mike Bedigan

Though police investigations continued throughout the weekend, the cause of the Rainbow Bridge blast remains something of a mystery.

Some previously speculated that the driver of the vehicle may have suffered from a medical emergency, though investigators are now exploring whether a mechanical failure in the car could be to blame.

Robert Restaino, the mayor of Niagara Falls, told The New York Times that the Bentley the couple was driving in was an older model and may have experienced some sort of mechanical glitch that caused it to suddenly accelerate as it approached the border checkpoint.

However, a spokesperson for the American arm of Bentley Motors told the paper that the automaker was yet to hear from investigators about the incident.

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

“They could actually see that the driver applied the accelerator pedal, not unintentionally, then it could have been [possibly] a medical issue,” Ms Fix said.

A message from the family

Sunday 26 November 2023 23:00 , Mike Bedigan

Grand Island residents Kurt P Villani and Monica Villani were identified on Friday as the victims of the crash.

Online records revealed that the family owns Gui’s Lumber, a business that spans locations across western New York.

“We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all that extended prayers, condolences and well wishes,” the families and the lumber company said in a joint statement released by the Erie County Sheriff’s Office on Friday. “At this point, we are requesting privacy so we may begin the process of healing.”

NY Gov: Shocking crash almost looked AI generated

Sunday 26 November 2023 22:00 , Mike Bedigan

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said that when she first saw footage of the crash which killed two people, she wondered whether it could have been AI generated – such was its shocking nature.

Ms Hochul quickly ruled out that the incident was terrorist-related, but described it as “surreal” and said the vehicle was “basically incinerated” with nothing left but the engine and a scattering of charred debris.

“You actually had to look at it and say, was this generated by AI?” she told reporters at a news conference Wednesday.

“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.”

Niagara Police Chief warns about the spread of misinformation

Sunday 26 November 2023 21:30 , Mike Bedigan

The Niagara Region’s chief of police has warned the community about the dangers of misinformation, following the crash at the Rainbow Bridge border crossing on Wednesday.

Bryan MacCulloch said that although the incident was quickly confirmed to be non-terrorist related, speculation in the mainstream media and online had caused “significant and unnecessary anxiety” within the local community.

Several outlets including Fox News were forced to walk back on parts of their coverage, after previously suggesting that the attack was linked to terrorism.

Addressing the Niagara Region Police Services Board on Thursday, Mr MacCulloch said: “We saw an immense amount of misinformation and speculation on both mainstream and social media platforms, which created significant and unnecessary anxiety in the community.

“I think what we saw on Wednesday was really the speed at which misinformation [spreads] in today’s environment of social media and how quickly it can spiral.

Mr MacCulloch did not refer to any specific piece of msinformation or outlet, but said there were claims of an attack, that the car had come from Canada and that the vehicle was filled with explosives.

“None of that information was accurate. None of it was corroborated. Yet that didn’t stop individuals, and in some cases media outlets, from putting that information out,” he said.

“We have four international bridge crossings here in the Niagara Region that lead into the United States and [I think] their closing [out of] an abundance of caution added to that fear and anxiety that there was the potential for another attack when in fact, there wasn’t an original attack.”

The timeline

Sunday 26 November 2023 21:00 , Mike Bedigan

Wednesday, 22 November:

  • The band KISS cancelled its Toronto show due to frontman Paul Stanley catching the flu

  • A New York couple, who had been planning on going to the concert, decide to go to a casino

  • The couple left the casino, and headed toward the bridge

  • 11.50am: The Rainbow Bridge was closed due to a “traffic event”

  • Gov Kathy Hochul announces “there is no indication of a terrorist attack”

  • The FBI also said “no terrorism nexus was identified”

Friday, 24 November:

  • Police identify the couple as Kurt P Villani and Monica Villani from Grand Island New York

  • They were survived by their two children

  • Investigators employ the use of 3D scanners to help create a “digital crash scene”

Saturday and Sunday 25/26 November:

  • Police investigations continue

Surveillance footage shows car speeding moments before Rainbow Bridge explosion

Sunday 26 November 2023 20:00 , Mike Bedigan

A cancelled KISS concert to a fatal crash

Sunday 26 November 2023 16:30 , Mike Bedigan

The deadly crash at a border crossing between the US and Canada involved New York couple Kurt and Monica Villani, who had planned to attend a Kiss concert in Toronto on Wednesday night.

Law enforcement sources told CNN that the couple, who lived in the small town of Grand Island in western New York, were speeding in their Bentley when the car rammed into the Rainbow Bridge crossing, killing them both.

The blast sparked fears of a terrorist attack and prompted Canadian and US officials to briefly close all border bridges between the two nations and ground planes at nearby Buffalo Airport.

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

Instead, the investigation so far indicates that the couple were planning to cross the border to go to a Kiss concert in Toronto that night. But the concert was cancelled earlier in the day due to frontman Paul Stanley becoming ill with the flu.

Rainbow Bridge crash couple were ‘always plugged in’ to local community

Sunday 26 November 2023 15:30 , Mike Bedigan

Eric Fiebelkorn, president of the Chamber of Commerce on Grand Island, where the Villani’s lived, said the couple were well known in the business community and always happy to help with charitable causes and community projects.

“Everybody knows everybody on Grand Island... It’s the smallest town of small towns. There are some people who are always plugged in. Their family always was,” Mr Fiebelkorn told The Buffalo News.

“They are a very generous and community-oriented family,” Mr Fiebelkorn said. “It leaves a void in our small-town business community that will be very difficult to fill. Our prayers and our thoughts certainly go out to their family and staff.”

He added that news that the crash had involved a Bentley and a couple from Grand Island had sparked concern amongst friends and other members of the community.

“It’s a nice community, but not too many of us have Bentleys,” Mr Fiebelkorn said, adding: “It’s so sudden. Almost, really unbelievable.”

Niagara Falls Mayor: ‘We may never find out exactly what happened'

Sunday 26 November 2023 14:42 , Mike Bedigan

Niagara Falls Mayor Robert M Restaino paid tribute to Kurt and Monica Villani, describing them as “two kind, easygoing” people.

Mr Restaino, who was a longtime friend of Mr Villani’s father, Kurt Villani Sr, told The Buffalo News: “Our families have known each other for decades. I knew Kurt and Monica, two kind, easygoing and very hardworking people.

“This was just a tragic, horrible incident, and because of the condition of the vehicle and sadly the human remains, we may never find out exactly what happened.”

Mr Restaino said he would be astonished if the crash was intentional, adding: “I know police are looking into every possibility, but from my conversations with investigators, that appears very unlikely.”

The Villanis had a son and a daughter, and are also survived by Mr Villani’s mother, according to Mr Restaino.

Sunday 26 November 2023 10:00 , Mike Bedigan

What New York officials have said about the crash

The timeline

Sunday 26 November 2023 04:00 , Mike Bedigan

Wednesday, 22 November:

  • The band KISS cancelled its Toronto show due to frontman Paul Stanley catching the flu

  • A New York couple, who had been planning on going to the concert, decide to go to a casino

  • The couple left the casino, and headed toward the bridge

  • 11.50am: The Rainbow Bridge was closed due to a “traffic event”

  • Gov Kathy Hochul announces “there is no indication of a terrorist attack”

  • The FBI also said “no terrorism nexus was identified”

Friday, 24 November:

  • Police identify the couple as Kurt P Villani and Monica Villani from Grand Island New York

  • They were survived by their two children

Saturday 25 November 2023 22:00 , Mike Bedigan

ICYMI: What we know about the Rainbow Bridge crash

Two people, Kurt P Villani and Monica Villani, died after a vehicle exploded at a US-Canadaborder crossing at Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, on Wednesday 22 November.

The car was attempting to enter Canada from the United States when it sped toward a checkpoint, crashed into a fence and erupted “into a fireball” just before midday, according to witnesses.

Video footage and photos showed flames and thick black smoke billowing from the checkpoint, and a security booth that had been charred by flames.

The blast killed two, reportedly injured one Border Patrol officer and led to the closure of four border crossings between the US and Canada in New York state.

Within hours, investigators had ruled out that the car had been carrying explosives or was connected to terrorism.

Read the full story...

What we know about the deadly Rainbow Bridge explosion

Saturday 25 November 2023 20:59 , Mike Bedigan

WATCH: Surveillance footage shows car speeding moments before explosion

Niagara Falls identify victims of Rainbow Bridge crash

Saturday 25 November 2023 18:59 , Mike Bedigan

Police named the two people who died in the Rainbow Bridge crash as Kurt P Villani and Monica Villani on Thursday.

Crash couple were ‘ingrained’ in local community

Saturday 25 November 2023 16:59 , Mike Bedigan

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

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

“Without those folks we would have never, never been able to this extent rebuild this beautiful club,” Mr Henderson said.

Neighbours of crash couple: ‘They were so loved'

Saturday 25 November 2023 15:59 , Mike Bedigan

Members of the community described the crash victims, now identified by authorities as Kurt P Villani and Monica Villani, as “very kind, wonderful people”.

Chuck Meyer, a close friend and neighbour, told NBC-affiliate-WGRZ he had seen multiple vehicles at the Villani’s house on Wednesday, initially assuming that the couple were throwing an early Christmas or Thanksgiving party.

“Then about an hour later, heard the news and I’m like, oh my God,” he told the outlet.

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

She added: “They were so generous and kind and always willing to help. You know, just plowing everybody’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 so very, kind wonderful people.”

Mr Meyer saidd: "Without ever being asked, they would just be giving and gifting, and that's the type of people we lost."

Vehicle black box ‘critical’ to investgation

Saturday 25 November 2023 15:30 , Mike Bedigan

Automotive analyst Lauren Fix said that the Event Data Recorder (EDR) – similar to an aircrafts “black box”, which collects vehicle data to share with manufacturers – maybe be a critical piece of evidence in the ongoing investigation into the Rainbow Bridge crash.

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

"It knows steering input, because we have steer by wire, it has accelerator information," Fix said. "It would tell you if the pedal was put to the floor."

Ms Fix believes that acceleration data recovered from the EDR may help investigators narrow determining factors of the crash.

"They could actually see that the driver applied the accelerator pedal, not unintentionally, then it could have been [possibly] a medical issue," she told WGRZ. “They're going to have to make a decision based on the knowledge that they have."

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

3D scanners being used to help recreate Niagara crash scene

Saturday 25 November 2023 14:58 , Mike Bedigan

According Niagara Falls Police Department 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 for them to work on of the of the entire scene," Mr Faso told NBC-affiliate-WGRZ.

Mr Faso added: “This is not something that’s going to happen overnight. It’s a monumental task.”

Saturday 25 November 2023 13:00 , Kelly Rissman

What caused the crash?

The cause of the Rainbow Bridge blast remains something of a mystery, with investigators now exploring whether a mechanical failure in the car could be to blame.

Robert Restaino, the mayor of Niagara Falls, told The New York Times that the Bentley the couple was driving in was an older model and may have experienced some sort of mechanical glitch that caused it to suddenly accelerate as it approached the border checkpoint.

However, a spokesperson for the American arm of Bentley Motors told the paper that the automaker was yet to hear from investigators about the incident.

Whatever the cause, getting to the bottom of what happened could take time as the car was effectively incinerated in the fireball blast.

On Thursday, Niagara Falls Police Department – which is now leading the investigation after the FBI found no signs of terrorism – carried out an accident reconstruction, including retracing the last known movements of the couple.

In a press conference on Wednesday evening, Ms Hochul said she would not go so far as to declare the blast an “accident” just yet as the probe continues but that the two people killed were local residents with no ties to terrorism. No other potential motive had been discovered.

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

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

The FBI’s Buffalo division also released a statement saying that no explosives had been found at the scene and that “no terrorism nexus was identified”.

Saturday 25 November 2023 11:00 , Kelly Rissman

Mystery as investigators probe possible cause of Rainbow Bridge crash

The cause of the Rainbow Bridge deadly vehicle explosion remains something of a mystery, with investigators now exploring whether a mechanical failure in the car could be to blame.

Kurt and Monica Villani, both 53, were killed on Wednesday when their speeding Bentley rammed into the border crossing along Niagara Falls, which connects the US and Canada.

The blast instantly sparked fears of a terrorist attack, prompting Canadian and US officials to briefly close all four border bridges between the two nations and ground planes at nearby Buffalo Airport.

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

Now, two days on, investigators are still working to piece together what caused the deadly crash which has left the couple’s upstate New York community of Grand Island in mourning.

Saturday 25 November 2023 10:00 , Kelly Rissman

What was the cause of the fatal crash?

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, which the couple were driving.

Robert Restaino, the mayor of Niagara Falls, told The New York Times that the Bentley was an older model and may have experienced some sort of mechanical glitch that caused it to suddenly accelerate as it approached the border checkpoint.

However, a spokesperson for the US arm of Bentley Motors told the outlet that the automaker was yet to hear from investigators about the incident.

We might not know exactly what happened for some time. “Due to the complexity of the incident, the investigation will take some time to complete,” the Niagara Falls Police have said.

Saturday 25 November 2023 09:00 , Kelly Rissman

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, 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,” she explained.

She and the FBI have ruled out that the incident was a terrorist act. The investigation into the cause is ongoing.

Saturday 25 November 2023 05:00 , Kelly Rissman

Tributes pour in after Kurt P Villani and Monica Villani died in the crash

The husband and wife were members of Niagara Sailing Club on Grand Island, the club’s treasurer Scott Henderson told NBC-affiliate-WGRZ.

“Not only were people talking but then I made an announcement and some people were just incredibly shocked,” he said.

“It’s just not only a younger couple like that, but so ingrained and influential in this community.”

The couple’s friend Chuck Meyer also revealed his shock when he learned that the tragedy broadcast on national news involved those close to him.

“I got home yesterday (Wednesday). I didn’t know anything other than hearing things on the news about the border, and then saw that their driveway was filled up with all these cars,” he told the local outlet on Thursday.

“I thought, ‘Oh, they’re having Christmas or Thanksgiving early, and like, that’s really nice.’ And then about an hour later, heard the news and I’m like, ‘oh my God.’”

Saturday 25 November 2023 03:00 , Kelly Rissman

WATCH: Trudeau addresses explosion at Rainbow Bridge border crossing in Niagara Falls

Saturday 25 November 2023 01:00 , Kelly Rissman

Bentley spokesperson weighs in

In the wake of the incident, Robert Restaino, the mayor of Niagara Falls, told The New York Times that the Bentley the couple was driving in was an older model and may have experienced some sort of mechanical glitch that caused it to suddenly accelerate as it approached the border checkpoint.

Erin Bronner, a spokesperson for Bentley USA, told WIVB 4: “We will work with the authorities quickly as soon as we are contacted and if we can aid in any investigation.”

Friday 24 November 2023 23:00 , Kelly Rissman

What caused the crash?

The cause of the Rainbow Bridge blast remains something of a mystery, with investigators now exploring whether a mechanical failure in the car could be to blame.

Robert Restaino, the mayor of Niagara Falls, told The New York Times that the Bentley the couple was driving in was an older model and may have experienced some sort of mechanical glitch that caused it to suddenly accelerate as it approached the border checkpoint.

However, a spokesperson for the American arm of Bentley Motors told the paper that the automaker was yet to hear from investigators about the incident.

Whatever the cause, getting to the bottom of what happened could take time as the car was effectively incinerated in the fireball blast.

On Thursday, Niagara Falls Police Department – which is now leading the investigation after the FBI found no signs of terrorism – carried out an accident reconstruction, including retracing the last known movements of the couple.

In a press conference on Wednesday evening, Ms Hochul said she would not go so far as to declare the blast an “accident” just yet as the probe continues but that the two people killed were local residents with no ties to terrorism. No other potential motive had been discovered.

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

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

The FBI’s Buffalo division also released a statement saying that no explosives had been found at the scene and that “no terrorism nexus was identified”.

Friday 24 November 2023 22:20 , Kelly Rissman

Mystery clouds the cause of the Rainbow Bridge crash

The cause of the Rainbow Bridge deadly vehicle explosion remains something of a mystery, with investigators now exploring whether a mechanical failure in the car could be to blame.

Kurt and Monica Villani, both 53, were killed on Wednesday when their speeding Bentley rammed into the border crossing along Niagara Falls, which connects the US and Canada.

The blast instantly sparked fears of a terrorist attack, prompting Canadian and US officials to briefly close all four border bridges between the two nations and ground planes at nearby Buffalo Airport.

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

Read the full story...

Mystery as investigators probe possible cause of Rainbow Bridge crash

Friday 24 November 2023 22:00 , Kelly Rissman

ICYMI: What happened in the fatal crash

A couple from New York died after a vehicle exploded at a US-Canada border crossing at Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, on Wednesday 22 November.

The car was attempting to enter Canada from the United States when it sped toward a checkpoint, crashed into a fence and erupted “into a fireball” just before midday, according to witnesses.

Video footage and photos showed flames and thick black smoke billowing from the checkpoint, and a security booth that had been charred by flames.

The blast killed two, reportedly injured one Border Patrol officer and led to the closure of four border crossings between the US and Canada in New York state.

Despite mounting speculation the crash was a terrorist act, within hours, investigators had ruled out that the car had been carrying explosives or was connected to terrorism.

Read the full story...

What we know about the deadly Rainbow Bridge explosion

Friday 24 November 2023 21:40 , Kelly Rissman

The latest from the Niagara Falls police

Friday 24 November 2023 21:20 , Kelly Rissman

What happened to the border patrol worker?

A Customs and Border Protection worker in a checkpoint booth was injured after the couple’s Bentley rammed into the booth.

The CBP worker was treated at a hospital for minor injuries and released, Gov Kathy Hochul said.

Friday 24 November 2023 21:00 , Kelly Rissman

Who were the two people killed in the blast?

Law enforcement sources told CNN on Wednesday night that the Rainbow Bridge crash is believed to have involved a local New York individual and a passenger who had planned to attend a KISS concert in Toronto, Canada.

The concert was cancelled earlier in the day due to frontman, Paul Stanley, falling ill with the flu.

Police identified the couple on Friday as Kurt P Villani and Monica Villani, both 53; they lived in Grand Island, New York. They are survived by two children, according to an obiturary for the husband’s father.

The Villanis own Gui’s Lumber, a business with eight locations across western New York.

In a statement to CBC, the business wrote: “We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all that [have] extended prayers, condolences and well wishes. We are deeply touched. At this point, we would request privacy so we may begin the process of healing.”

Friday 24 November 2023 20:40 , Kelly Rissman

A statement from the family

The Villanis own Gui’s Lumber, a chain of stores across western New York. CBC reached out to the business:

“We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all that [have] extended prayers, condolences and well wishes. We are deeply touched. At this point, we would request privacy so we may begin the process of healing,” the statement says

Friday 24 November 2023 20:20 , Kelly Rissman

Tributes pour in for couple killed in fiery crash

The husband and wife were members of Niagara Sailing Club on Grand Island, the club’s treasurer Scott Henderson told NBC-affiliate-WGRZ.

“Not only were people talking but then I made an announcement and some people were just incredibly shocked,” he said.

“It’s just not only a younger couple like that, but so ingrained and influential in this community.”

Read the full story...

Tributes pour in for couple killed in fiery crash on Rainbow Bridge

Friday 24 November 2023 19:34 , Kelly Rissman

Buffalo airport reopens to international flights after explosion

Buffalo Niagara International Airport has reopened to arriving international flights and departures following a car explosion that occurred at the US-Canada border in Niagara Falls on Wednesday, according to the US Department of Transportation.

It had been closed earlier in the afternoon as officials investigated the cause of the blast.

The incident occurred shortly before 12pm. Authorities say that the vehicle had attempted to cross the US border into Canada using Rainbow Bridge. When a border patrol officer directed the car into a secondary lane for searching, it sped up, went airborne over an 8-foot fence, crashed, caught on fire and then exploded.

Read the full story...

Buffalo airport reopens to international flights after Niagara blast

Friday 24 November 2023 19:20 , Kelly Rissman

Chilling footage revealed

The CBP released harrowing footage of the moment that the car went flying through the air, which can be seen in the upper part of the video.

Friday 24 November 2023 19:00 , Kelly Rissman

The blast could have been caused by a “fuel-air explosion,” former official says

Scott Sweetow, the former director of the FBI’s Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center, told CBS News the eruption may have been the result of a “fuel-air explosion.”

“I am speculating that, due to the high speed of the car, and almost disintegration of [the car], that as fuel in the breached gas tank went forward under high speed, it mixed with the air and created almost a cloud of gasoline, which then ignited, creating the dramatic fireball we all saw,” he told the outlet.

Friday 24 November 2023 18:40 , Kelly Rissman

Theory that the deadly crash was caused by a terrorist act has been throughouly rejected

On Thursday, Niagara Falls Police Department – which is now leading the investigation after the FBI found no signs of terrorism – carried out an accident reconstruction, including retracing the last known movements of the couple.

In a press conference on Wednesday evening, Ms Hochul said she would not go so far as to declare the blast an “accident” just yet as the probe continues but that the two people killed were local residents with no ties to terrorism. No other potential motive had been discovered.

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

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

The FBI’s Buffalo division also released a statement saying that no explosives had been found at the scene and that “no terrorism nexus was identified”.

Friday 24 November 2023 18:20 , Kelly Rissman

The bridge is reopened

Friday 24 November 2023 18:20 , Kelly Rissman

What exactly happened in the Rainbow Bridge crash?

At 11.50am 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 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 that he had seen the vehicle catch fire, before seeing black smoke and flames.

Ambulances arrived soon afterward to find the vehicle completely burned out. Two individuals travelling in the car died, officials said.

Friday 24 November 2023 18:00 , Kelly Rissman

WATCH: Smoke billows from Niagara Falls explosion as two people dead in vehicle blast

Friday 24 November 2023 17:40 , Kelly Rissman

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, 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,” she explained.

She and the FBI have ruled out that the incident was a terrorist act. The investigation into the cause is ongoing.

Friday 24 November 2023 17:20 , Kelly Rissman

What was the cause of the fatal crash?

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, which the couple were driving.

Robert Restaino, the mayor of Niagara Falls, told The New York Times that the Bentley was an older model and may have experienced some sort of mechanical glitch that caused it to suddenly accelerate as it approached the border checkpoint.

However, a spokesperson for the US arm of Bentley Motors told the outlet that the automaker was yet to hear from investigators about the incident.

We might not know exactly what happened for some time. “Due to the complexity of the incident, the investigation will take some time to complete,” the Niagara Falls Police have said.