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Rainbow Bridge crash: Niagara Falls police warn against misinformation

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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Ariana Baio28 November 2023 07:00

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Watch: Vehicle explodes after crash on Rainbow Bridge

Vehicle explodes after crash on Rainbow Bridge

Ariana Baio28 November 2023 04:00

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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

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Ariana Baio28 November 2023 02:00

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ICYMI: Two dead in Niagara car explosion that closed US-Canada border

New York’s governor says that there is “no sign of terrorism” in the violent vehicle explosion that left two people dead and injured a border guard at the Rainbow Bridge crossing between the United States and Canada in New York near Niagara Falls.

Governor Kathy Hochul told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that there was no evidence of any terror planning and that an investigation would continue to look into what happened.

Ariana Baio28 November 2023 00:00

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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.

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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.

Ariana Baio27 November 2023 22:00

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Thanksgiving travel impacted by Rainbow Bridge explosion

The incident came at a time of heightened fears of a possible terror attack. Ms Hochul issued a warning days earlier that officials had detected increased chatter of a possible terror attack in the state due to unrest in the Middle East.

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The White House said in a statement that President Biden was “closely following developments.” US Attorney General Merrick Garland was briefed on the unfolding situation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also responded to the scene.

Mr Trudeau said officials in Canada were “taking this extraordinary seriously”.

“This is obviously a very serious situation in Niagara Falls,” Mr Trudeau told the Canadian Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.

The FBI’s Buffalo field office said in a statement it was leading the local, state and federal response until it determined there were no threats of terrorism. It then handed the investigation to the Niagara Falls Police Department.

Officials closed four US-Canada border crossings in New York: the Rainbow Bridge, Peace Bridge, Whirlpool Bridge and Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.

Amtrak also temporarily suspended cross-border services between New York and Canada.

The Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo said it would close until after Thanksgiving “out of an abundance of caution”.

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International departures and arrivals were paused at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. It was reopened several hours later.

Travellers arriving at the airport were warned to expect additional screenings, while vehicles would undergo extra security checks.

“The Buffalo and Niagara Falls Airports are fully operational. We advise travelers to give themselves time for these extra precautions in addition to holiday travel,” the agency said on X.

Three of the four bridge crossings were reopened on Wednesday afternoon, with only the Rainbow Bridge still closed. It reopened on Thursday afternoon.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority said security would be stepped up across the area.

Ariana Baio27 November 2023 20:00

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Watch: Niagara police chief warns against misinformation following Rainbow Bridge crash

Niagara police chief warns against misinformation following Rainbow Bridge crash

Ariana Baio27 November 2023 18:00

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What we know about Rainbow Bridge explosion

Two people 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.

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.

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Another witness told reporters that he had seen the vehicle catch fire, before seeing black smoke and flames.

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

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

Bevan Hurley27 November 2023 16:00

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Niagara Falls police identify couple killed in crash

The couple tragically killed in the crash at the Rainbow Bridge crossing have now been identified.

Kurt Villani, 53, and his wife Monica Villani, 53, were residents of Grand Island, New York, Niagara Falls police announced on Friday.

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“The City of Niagara Falls would like to extend our sincere condolences to the families as they deal with this tragedy,” police said in a statement.

Although little is known about the couple at this time, an obituary for Kurt Villani’s father revealed the pair are survived by two children.

The couple had been planning to attend a KISS concert in Toronto on Wednesday, but the gig was cancelled when frontman Paul Stanley fell ill with flu.

Kelly Rissman27 November 2023 15:00

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Video captures the speeding car ahead of the crash

Mike Bedigan27 November 2023 14:00

Source: Independent

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