Investigators think a deadly crash Wednesday morning at the Rainbow Bridge, which links the US and Canada, involved a man who was traveling with his wife in a Bentley at a high rate of speed, law enforcement sources told CNN.
The speeding vehicle hit a curb, then a guardrail that sent the vehicle airborne and into a secondary screening area, the sources said.
The man, who lived in New York State, had plans to attend a KISS concert in Canada but when it was canceled, went to a casino in the US instead, investigators believe. The crash occurred after the couple left the casino, the sources told CNN.
The vehicle had entering the bridge area on the US side, law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation said. Earlier reports had indicated the car was traveling from Canada to the US.
The explosion on the eve of the US Thanksgiving holiday led to closures and delays on a busy travel day and early on, prompted concerns it might be a terror attack, but the incident does not appear to be terror-related, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said.
“I want to be very, very clear to Americans and New Yorkers, at this time there is no indication of a terrorist attack,” the governor told reporters at a news conference Wednesday evening.
US Attorney Trini Ross reiterated the same at a separate news conference, saying, “Our preliminary investigation of the situation is that it was not terrorism related but we will continue to stay vigilant. We will continue to make sure that the information we have is passed onto the public.”
The FBI found no terrorism nexus and no explosive materials after concluding their investigation at the Rainbow Bridge scene Wednesday, FBI Buffalo said in a post on X.
Car flew through air almost as if in a movie, witness says
Rickie Wilson told CNN affiliate WKBW seeing the car flying past him was “almost like a movie” and for a moment, he thought it was a plane. He said the car rotated a little as it returned to the ground and then hit something when it landed.
A photo of the crash scene shows little left of the car, which Hochul said “disintegrated” – except the engine.
The governor said Wednesday evening that two people died in the vehicle, after earlier uncertainty from law enforcement sources due to the intensity of the fire. A border patrol employee in a booth also suffered minor injuries, Hochul said.
The car is associated with a western New York resident, Hochul added.
All four bridges between Canada and the United States were closed immediately after the incident, officials said. The Peace, Whirlpool and Lewiston-Queenston bridges reopened later Wednesday, Hochul said. Buffalo Niagara International Airport said travelers should expect additional screenings following the incident.
The leaders of both the United States and Canada were briefed on the situation as the initial investigation proceeded.
“We didn’t know if it was a terrorist attack or not at the beginning,” Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said. “However, every precaution … was taken to ensure the safety of the community.”
He called the crash a “tragic accident.”
Trying to identify the victims
Authorities have been trying to determine if the person the car is registered to and the driver found at the scene are the same person, but the condition of the remains has made it difficult for authorities to determine the driver’s identity, multiple sources told CNN earlier. It also created a challenge for authorities in assessing if there were one or two people in the car.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Matthew Miraglia earlier said officials don’t believe the person they are looking at was doing anything nefarious.
“We do have someone in mind for it and we’re working through it through the (Joint Terrorism Task Force),” he said. “We do not have any derogatory information on this person that we’ve identified. We’re scanning his social media, there’s nothing there. We’re still running a full investigation so that’s a preliminary assessment.”
There’s likely no larger picture to look at, but it is early in the investigation, he added. “We feel, at this point, this might be just something that occurred.”
Federal authorities are also trying to retrieve video from a number of different angles because the statements from witnesses vary, sources said.
The Niagara International Transportation Technology Coalition initially reported the bridge was closed on both sides due to a crash. The bridge was reported closed at 11:51 a.m., according to the technology coalition. Camera footage from the coalition showed haze surrounding the bridge.
This is a developing story and has been updated with more information.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly described how the vehicle traveled through the border checkpoint.
CNN’s Laura Dolan, Paul P. Murphy, Sabrina Souza, Maria Sole Campinoti and Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.
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