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Two Dead In Rainbow Bridge Vehicle Explosion, Triggering Heightened Security At US-Canada Border

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Law enforcement personnel block off the entrance to the Rainbow Bridge border crossing following a vehicle explosion on Nov. 22, 2023, in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

A vehicle explosion at Rainbow Bridge, a key U.S.-Canada border crossing near Niagara Falls, resulted in the deaths of two individuals on Wednesday, sparking a massive security response on both sides of the border.

The incident on the U.S. side of the crossing led to the closure of four international border crossings and heightened security measures across the region.

Sources told CBS News and CTV News that the vehicle, travelling at high speed from the U.S. side, crashed into the customs station before exploding. The car was reportedly “charred beyond recognition,” complicating efforts to identify the victims or determine the cause of the explosion. Canadian officials are operating under the assumption that the incident might be terror-related, though other causes such as a medical event or reckless driving have not been ruled out.

Informed of the situation, New York Governor Kathy Hochul directed the New York State Police to work with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. She stated, “The New York State Police is actively working with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to monitor all points of entry to New York.”

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, briefed by Canada’s National Security and Intelligence Advisor and the Minister of Public Safety, stated that additional security measures are being considered at all border crossings. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has also been briefed and is coordinating with law enforcement.

Following the explosion, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration announced an increase in law enforcement and canine patrols, warning travelers of heightened security. In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams stated that the NYPD has enhanced security and sent officers to Buffalo to support efforts on the ground.

Toronto Police, responding to the incident, have increased patrols throughout the city, noting on social media, “Due to today’s incident at the Canada-US border, we will be increasing directed patrols of uniformed officers throughout the city.”

Eye-witness Mike Guenther described the scene to NBC’s Buffalo affiliate, saying, “It was flying. Over 100 miles per hour. It hit the fence and flew up into the air, and we’ve just seen the fireball. It was covered with smoke everywhere. It was going towards Canada.”

The incident has had a significant impact on travel and transportation in the region. In addition to the Rainbow Bridge, three other bridges – the Peace Bridge, the Lewiston-Queenston, and the Whirlpool Bridge – were closed. The Buffalo Niagara International Airport announced additional security measures, though the FAA indicated a closure to international flights.

The investigation into the explosion is ongoing, with the FBI Buffalo Field Office leading the efforts. Officials have urged the public to stay alert and avoid unnecessary travel in the affected areas.

This is a developing story, and further details will be provided as they become available.