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Governor Hochul: No sign of terrorist attack at Rainbow Bridge

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A statement by NY State Governor Kathy Hochul,

Good afternoon. I just returned from the scene of a horrific accident that led to a high-level anxiety all the way from Western New York to Albany to Washington. But before I describe the details, I want to be very clear to Americans and New Yorkers: at this time, there is no indication of a terrorist attack. Let me repeat that: at this time, there is no indication of a terrorist involved attack here at the Rainbow Bridge in Western New York. At 11:27 this morning, a car going at a very high rate of speed crashed into a median at Niagara Street just minutes from here. It’s in the city of Niagara Falls, near one of the border crossings into Canada, the Rainbow Bridge. 

There are four border crossings here in Western New York. This is one of the busiest crossings, not just in Western New York but along the entire U.S.-Canadian border. And it happens on the busiest travel day of the year. So naturally, in a time of heightened alert, everyone’s springing into action. It crashed into a Customs and Border Patrol booth, and the car and the booth immediately exploded. Burst into flames. I saw the video of an airborne vehicle that was absolutely surreal. You actually had to look at it and say, was this generated by AI? Because it was so surreal to see. How high in the air this vehicle went, and then the crash, and the explosion, and the fire. That video will be released shortly.

As I said, we’re not aware of any threats to this area. But, I state the caveat that the investigation is ongoing. If you can imagine, this vehicle basically incinerated. Nothing is left but the engine. The pieces are scattered over 13, 14 booths. So it is a large scene and it’s going to take a lot of time for our federal law enforcement partners who are with me here today and I’ll identify to be able to piece together the real story to identify the make of the car. Obviously, there is not a license plate. 

I’ve been briefed by law enforcement for the last hour. New York State Police, Colonel Andy Crow, Colonel Allen and other law enforcement officials. I’ve been joined by Aaron Bowker, who’s the special agent in charge of the Customs and Border Patrol. I was also briefed by the SAC from the FBI. Also was on the phone with Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas, the FBI Director Christopher Wray has reached out. The White House has reached out. My staff has been in communication with all of them. I spoke with Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, Congressman Higgins, local law enforcement, as well as local elected officials because the world is watching to find out what happened here.

And again, at a time when there’s such high anxiety, stress levels are already high. And we’ve been on heightened alert since October 7. That’s why it’s so important for me to stand here and tell the world based on what we know at this moment, and again, anything can change, there is no sign of terrorist activity with respect to this crash.

We’ve identified that this is a local individual, a Western New Yorker. Two individuals died in the vehicle. The border patrol individual working in the booth was injured. The booth literally protected that individual. They went to the hospital with minor injuries and have been released.

There is also, again, the busiest travel day of the year, there is a major disruption in, first of all, our cross-border travel. Right now, the Rainbow Bridge will remain closed while law enforcement continues the investigation. Again, this is a large, widely scattered scene, and we’re trying to identify all the elements to make sure that there is no unforeseen situations that we need to address before we can open again to the public.

We’re going to make sure the public is safe before they go back on the Rainbow Bridge. Also making sure the structural integrity of the booths. Also very important our state DOT will be involved in that as well. The Whirlpool Bridge and Lewiston-Queenston Bridge opening early this evening, probably open by now.

Can anybody confirm that? We’re open now. Okay. They are open now. There’s been a lot of people trying to get across. I appreciate that. The Peace Bridge, which was open, has already reopened half an hour ago. For those traveling by train, unfortunately Amtrak has temporarily suspended its cross-border service between New York State and Canada.

And the Buffalo Airport, despite early reports, the Buffalo Airport was never closed and everything is normal. Domestic flights are still active. There has been no cessation in service there.

What I want to do at this time is extend my extreme gratitude to all of our partners. Customs and Border Patrol, Homeland Security, FBI, our State Police, local sheriffs from Niagara County, Erie County, all stepped up to assist in trying to identify what exactly transpired here, beginning at 11:27 a.m. this morning. They gave up their time from their families. They showed up. They reminded us that there are people who put on a uniform every single day, put themselves in harm’s way. The people out there on that bridge in the immediate aftermath of what happened – unknown, the source, the cause of this explosion – were out there doing their jobs. So, I want to pause to give them just the gratitude of a governor and 20 million New Yorkers who sleep better at night because of their willingness to do this. They run toward danger. They should be with their families today, but they will not be. This investigation will go on for a number of days. And that’s why we will not have any further answers at this time as to the individuals involved, the deceased, any motivation, and there’s a lot of unanswered questions. But at this time, we just need to dial down the temperature right now. 

And that’s what I plan to do as Governor – let everybody know all is well. We’re investigating, 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.   

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