Vehicle explodes at the Rainbow Bridge connecting the U.S. and Canada

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Bridges between New York State and Canada have been closed after a vehicle exploded at a U.S. checkpoint on a bridge near Niagara Falls.

The New York Times, citing law enforcement sources, said that two people had died, and a Border Patrol officer was injured. Other news sources said the fatalities were the vehicle’s occupants.

The FBI’s field office in Buffalo said in a statement that it was investigating the explosion on the Rainbow Bridge, which connects the two countries across the Niagara River. “As this situation is very fluid, that’s all we can say at this time,” the FBI said.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was also investigating, as was the Erie County sheriff’s department bomb squad. 

Photos and video taken by news organizations and posted on social media showed a security booth surrounded by flaming debris. Videos showed that the fire was in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection area just east of the main vehicle checkpoint.

The Niagara Falls mayor’s office said the blast involved a vehicle that had crossed into the U.S. from Canada, but other accounts said the vehicle had been speeding the other direction. The Buffalo News reported that a source with knowledge of the situation said a vehicle approached the checkpoint at high speed from the U.S. side, and in the wrong lanes, in other words the lanes that Canadian travelers would use to enter the U.S. It then hit an obstacle and exploded. 


New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said, “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. I am traveling to Buffalo to meet with law enforcement and emergency responders and will update New Yorkers when more information becomes available.”

The Buffalo Niagara International Airport said it was increasing security, adding car checks and imposing more thorough screenings for Thanksgiving holiday travelers. The incident happened on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

The Rainbow Bridge is one of four border crossings connecting Ontario to western New York. The others are Lewiston, Whirlpool and Peace Bridge. The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission reports all four crossings are closed. The Buffalo News reported that long backups of tractor trailers lined I-190 near the Peace Bridge and Lewiston-Queenston bridge exits.

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