A car crash at the US-Canada border that killed two people, injured a border officer and jangled nerves ahead of the busy Thanksgiving holiday travel period is not believed to be terrorism, according to the FBI.
The agency had handed over its investigation to local officials, who are looking into why a luxury vehicle sped towards a border checkpoint, crossed a median, launched into the air, hit a building and exploded into a fireball.
CNN, citing FBI officials, reported that the car was a Bentley and the passengers were at least initially heading toward Toronto for a Kiss concert that evening, though it was cancelled hours before. The driver is believed to be from western New York state.
The Rainbow Bridge crossing remains closed for the holiday on what is one of the busiest travel days of the year.
The Niagara Falls police department did not respond to a request for comment. It had previously said it would not identify the passengers of the vehicle until it obtained a “positive identification and notification of next of kin”.
Amid fears of a possible terror threat, authorities shut three other crossings in the area – the Lewiston, Whirlpool and Peace Bridge – on Wednesday, all of which have since reopened.
Despite some early media reports claiming a terror attack, the FBI said it found no evidence of explosives, though that didn’t stop some elected officials from weighing in before investigators had fully studied the scene.
After incorrect posts on social media the driver had entered through Canada, Mike Kelly, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, posted he had “warned about the surge of suspected terrorists entering through our Northern border”.
In Canada, meanwhile, the Conservative leader, Pierre Poilievre, demanded the prime minister speak to Canadians after initial media reports of a “terrorist attack”.
“It is the principal responsibility of the government to protect the people. Can the prime minister give us an update on what he knows and what action plan he will immediately implement to bring home security for our people?”
Trudeau told parliament he had been briefed and there remained “a lot of questions” surrounding the incident.
“More information could arise but, based on the preliminary investigation, no sign of terrorist involvement in the horrific explosion that occurred here in western New York,” the New York governor, Kathy Hochul, told reporters on Wednesday.
She added the car was “incinerated” in the crash.
The mayor of Niagara Falls on the Ontario side of the border told CBC News the community was on a “real emotional rollercoaster” amid the uncertainty of information reported by media outlets. “People live on one side and work on the other,” Jim Diodati said. “We just thought, you gotta be kidding.”
The Ontario premier, Doug Ford, said provincial police were “actively engaged” in the investigation.
Due to the scope and complexity of the crash, police anticipate that the investigation will take “some time” to complete. The border crossing is not expected to open until at least Friday.
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