Rainbow Bridge Reopens Following Fatal Car Explosion

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Police cars are seen parked near the Rainbow Bridge on the Canadian side of the Canada-U.S. border crossing on Wednesday. The bridge reopened on Thursday, the day after a deadly car crash and explosion occurred on the U.S. side. (Derek Gee/The Buffalo News via AP)

The Rainbow Bridge, a key corridor between Canada and the United States, reopened on Thursday evening after being closed due to a catastrophic car explosion that resulted in two fatalities. The incident, which initially raised concerns of terrorism, has now been classified as a traffic incident by authorities.

The Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency both confirmed the reopening of the bridge on their respective social media platforms and websites, with the latter indicating no delays for travelers. New York Governor Kathy Hochul acknowledged the efforts of the border officers and emergency services in a statement, emphasizing their role in ensuring public safety during a peak travel period.

The incident occurred on Wednesday, when a vehicle, identified as a Bentley sedan, sped towards the U.S. side of the bridge. Surveillance footage released by the U.S. government showed the car hitting an object, becoming airborne, and then crashing and bursting into flames. The two deceased were later identified as a husband and wife. A CBP officer also sustained minor injuries in the event.

Debris is scattered about inside the customs plaza at the Rainbow Bridge border crossing, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023, in Niagara Falls, N.Y. (Derek Gee/The Buffalo News via AP)

The FBI’s Buffalo office has dismissed the likelihood of terrorism, stating, “A search of the scene revealed no explosive materials and no terrorism nexus was identified.” This sentiment was echoed by Public Safety Minister Dominic Leblanc, who reiterated the absence of any terrorism links.

The Niagara Falls Police Department, now leading the investigation, highlighted the complexity of the incident, with Supt. John Faso thanking local and national law enforcement agencies for their response. The crash management unit of the department is in charge of the ongoing investigation.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and New York Governor Kathy Hochul both commented on the surreal nature of the surveillance footage and the scale of the emergency response. Ford noted the active engagement of provincial law enforcement in collaboration with U.S. officials.

Trucks are positioned to block the entrance to the Rainbow Bridge where the border crossing between the U.S. and Canada has been closed after a vehicle exploded at a checkpoint on a bridge near Niagara Falls, Ont., Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio

This fatal incident led to the temporary closure of all four border crossings in the Niagara Region on the eve of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, a time when the Rainbow Bridge typically sees a significant increase in traffic. The bridge, which on a regular day sees about 6,000 vehicles, had nearly double that number crossing on Thanksgiving last year.

The reopening of the Rainbow Bridge, along with the Peace, Lewiston-Queenston, and Whirlpool Bridges, marks a return to normalcy in the region, albeit under the shadow of a tragic and unusual incident. The identities of the deceased are being withheld until proper identification and notification to the families. The Niagara Falls Police Department, in its statement, extended gratitude to all law enforcement partners and local businesses, including the Seneca Niagara Casino, for their assistance during the crisis.