Sources say two people were killed in a vehicle explosion Wednesday afternoon at Rainbow Bridge, a U.S.-Canada border crossing near Niagara Falls, in western New York. Officials say four U.S.-Canada border crossings in the region have been closed as investigators respond to the situation.
Multiple law enforcement sources confirmed to CBS News two people died inside the vehicle that exploded.
There had been conflicting early reports about which direction the car was traveling, but Wednesday afternoon a senior U.S. law enforcement official told CBS News the car was coming from the U.S. side. The official said it hit the customs station and the vehicle is charred. It is not yet known why the car exploded.
The official said that the nationalities of the two people who died are not yet known.
A senior administration official described the incident to CBS News as “more than a freak accident, but we don’t yet have details.”
Mike Guenther, a Canadian resident visiting New York, said he was walking nearby and saw the car speeding towards the border crossing.
“And he was flying, over 100 miles an hour. There was a car in front of him, he swerved out, went in front of the car, hit the fence, went flying up into the air … and we just seen the fireball, and that’s all we could see, there was just smoke everywhere,” he said in an interview with NewsNation.
Guenther said the car was heading from the U.S. toward Canada.
Randie Wilson, a Niagara Falls tour guide, said the crash was “like a movie.” Wilson said he was getting out of his car when he saw something airborne. “I first thought it was an airplane, looked like slow motion. And I said, ‘My God, it’s a car.'”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a speech to parliament that the Canadian government is working in close contact with U.S. officials, and that “additional measures are being contemplated and activated at all border crossings across the country.”
“We are taking this extraordinarily seriously,” Trudeau said.
The FBI Buffalo field office posted a statement on social media confirming that it was “investigating a vehicle explosion at Rainbow Bridge, a border crossing between the U.S. and Canada in Niagara Falls.” It added that the situation was very fluid and “that’s all we can say at this time.”
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement that she has been briefed on the situation. “At my direction, the New York State Police is actively working with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to monitor all points of entry to New York,” she said, adding that she is on her way to Buffalo to “meet with law enforcement and emergency responders.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, also said he had been briefed by the FBI. “Initial reports indicate the two people killed were in the car but nothing’s been determined on their identity or motive,” Schumer wrote on social media, adding that “law enforcement remains on heightened alert over Thanksgiving.”
In addition to Rainbow Bridge — a popular crossing for tourists, connecting Niagara Falls, New York, with Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada — Hochul said three other bridges on the U.S.-Canadian border in the region have been closed following the incident: The Peace Bridge, the Lewiston-Queenston and the Whirlpool Bridge.
The Buffalo Niagara International Airport says it is “open and fully operational,” with “additionally security measures” in place until further notice. The FAA said on its website the Buffalo airport is closed to departing and arriving international flights.
U.S. travelers during one of thecan expect to see an increase in law enforcement and canines patrolling the transportation system, the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement. The TSA said it is “operating at a heightened level of security as a result of world events and the current threat environment.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement, “The NYPD and our team have been closely monitoring the situation on the ground in Buffalo after an explosion at the Rainbow Bridge, and we’ve already sent NYPD officers upstate to support efforts on the ground. The NYPD and our partners have already enhanced security, and the city is on heightened alert due to the upcoming holiday, so the public will see increased security at locations across New York City.”
Toronto police also said they were stepping up security, tweeting: “Due to today’s incident at the Canada-US border, we will be increasing directed patrols of uniformed officers throughout the city. This is out of an abundance of caution and there are no known threats for the city of Toronto.”
This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates. Pat Milton, Robert Legare and Andres Triay contributed reporting.