Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

As it happenedended1701183153

Rainbow Bridge crash: Niagara Falls police warn against misinformation

New York couple Kurt and Monica Villani died on Wednesday when their speeding Bentley rammed into the border crossing in Niagara Falls, causing an explosion

Mike Bedigan,Kelly Rissman,Ariana Baio
Tuesday 28 November 2023 14:52 GMT
Comments
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.

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.

1700860831

Moments before the crash

Kurt and Monica Villani had been planning on going to a KISS concert in Toronto. But after hearing that the show was cancelled, due to the frontman catching the flu, they rerouted to a casino.

A spokesman for the Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino confirmed to the New York Times that the pair had been at the casino just minutes before the fatal crash. Footage captured the Bentley the couple was driving burst into flames after speeding down the road near the US-Canada border.

The cause of the explosion remains unknown.

Kelly Rissman24 November 2023 21:20
1700862031

The latest from the Niagara Falls police

Kelly Rissman24 November 2023 21:40
1700863231

ICYMI: What happened in the fatal crash

A couple from New York died after a vehicle exploded at a US-Canada border 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.

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

The blast killed two, reportedly injured one Border Patrol officer and led to the closure of four border crossings between the US and Canada in New York state.

Despite mounting speculation the crash was a terrorist act, within hours, investigators had ruled out that the car had been carrying explosives or was connected to terrorism.

Read the full story...

What we know about the deadly Rainbow Bridge explosion

Authorities have confirmed the incident was not a terrorist attack but the reason for the crash remains unclear

Kelly Rissman24 November 2023 22:00
1700864431

Mystery clouds the cause of the Rainbow Bridge crash

The cause of the Rainbow Bridge deadly vehicle explosion remains something of a mystery, with investigators now exploring whether a mechanical failure in the car could be to blame.

Kurt and Monica Villani, both 53, were killed on Wednesday when their speeding Bentley rammed into the border crossing along Niagara Falls, which connects the US and Canada.

The blast instantly sparked fears of a terrorist attack, prompting Canadian and US officials to briefly close all four border bridges between the two nations and ground planes at nearby Buffalo Airport.

Hours later, the FBI Buffalo office and New York Governor Kathy Hochul said that there were no signs that the incident was terror-related.

Read the full story...

Mystery as investigators probe possible cause of Rainbow Bridge crash

Robert Restaino, the mayor of Niagara Falls, says the Bentley the New York couple was driving in may have experienced some sort of mechanical failure

Kelly Rissman24 November 2023 22:20
1700866831

What caused the crash?

The cause of the Rainbow Bridge blast remains something of a mystery, with investigators now exploring whether a mechanical failure in the car could be to blame.

Robert Restaino, the mayor of Niagara Falls, told The New York Times that the Bentley the couple was driving in 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 American arm of Bentley Motors told the paper that the automaker was yet to hear from investigators about the incident.

Whatever the cause, getting to the bottom of what happened could take time as the car was effectively incinerated in the fireball blast.

On Thursday, Niagara Falls Police Department – which is now leading the investigation after the FBI found no signs of terrorism – carried out an accident reconstruction, including retracing the last known movements of the couple.

In a press conference on Wednesday evening, Ms Hochul said she would not go so far as to declare the blast an “accident” just yet as the probe continues but that the two people killed were local residents with no ties to terrorism. No other potential motive had been discovered.

“I want to be very, very clear to Americans and New Yorkers, at this time there is no indication of a terrorist attack,” Ms Hochul said.

She added: “Based on what is happening in the world, everyone is on edge. This is an international border. I won’t call it an accident yet. All we know is there was a horrific incident, a crash, a loss of life – but at this time: no known terrorism activity.”

The FBI’s Buffalo division also released a statement saying that no explosives had been found at the scene and that “no terrorism nexus was identified”.

Kelly Rissman24 November 2023 23:00
1700874032

Bentley spokesperson weighs in

In the wake of the incident, Robert Restaino, the mayor of Niagara Falls, told The New York Times that the Bentley the couple was driving in 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.

Erin Bronner, a spokesperson for Bentley USA, told WIVB 4: “We will work with the authorities quickly as soon as we are contacted and if we can aid in any investigation.”

Kelly Rissman25 November 2023 01:00
1700902800

Gov Kathy Hochul said she initially thought the crash was AI-generated

At a press conference earlier this week, the governor said, “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,” she explained.

She and the FBI have ruled out that the incident was a terrorist act. The investigation into the cause is ongoing.

Kelly Rissman25 November 2023 09:00
1700910000

Mystery as investigators probe possible cause of Rainbow Bridge crash

The cause of the Rainbow Bridge deadly vehicle explosion remains something of a mystery, with investigators now exploring whether a mechanical failure in the car could be to blame.

Kurt and Monica Villani, both 53, were killed on Wednesday when their speeding Bentley rammed into the border crossing along Niagara Falls, which connects the US and Canada.

The blast instantly sparked fears of a terrorist attack, prompting Canadian and US officials to briefly close all four border bridges between the two nations and ground planes at nearby Buffalo Airport.

Hours later, the FBI Buffalo office and New York Governor Kathy Hochul said that there were no signs that the incident was terror-related.

Now, two days on, investigators are still working to piece together what caused the deadly crash which has left the couple’s upstate New York community of Grand Island in mourning.

Kelly Rissman25 November 2023 11:00
1700917200

What caused the crash?

The cause of the Rainbow Bridge blast remains something of a mystery, with investigators now exploring whether a mechanical failure in the car could be to blame.

Robert Restaino, the mayor of Niagara Falls, told The New York Times that the Bentley the couple was driving in 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 American arm of Bentley Motors told the paper that the automaker was yet to hear from investigators about the incident.

Whatever the cause, getting to the bottom of what happened could take time as the car was effectively incinerated in the fireball blast.

On Thursday, Niagara Falls Police Department – which is now leading the investigation after the FBI found no signs of terrorism – carried out an accident reconstruction, including retracing the last known movements of the couple.

In a press conference on Wednesday evening, Ms Hochul said she would not go so far as to declare the blast an “accident” just yet as the probe continues but that the two people killed were local residents with no ties to terrorism. No other potential motive had been discovered.

“I want to be very, very clear to Americans and New Yorkers, at this time there is no indication of a terrorist attack,” Ms Hochul said.

She added: “Based on what is happening in the world, everyone is on edge. This is an international border. I won’t call it an accident yet. All we know is there was a horrific incident, a crash, a loss of life – but at this time: no known terrorism activity.”

The FBI’s Buffalo division also released a statement saying that no explosives had been found at the scene and that “no terrorism nexus was identified”.

Kelly Rissman25 November 2023 13:00
1700924294

3D scanners being used to help recreate Niagara crash scene

According Niagara Falls Police Department Chief John Faso, 3D scanners are being used to help create a “digital crash scene” to help discover the cause of the crash at the Rainbow Bridge border crossing.

"They take it to the scene, it scans the scene and reproduces a 3D image for them to work on of the of the entire scene," Mr Faso told NBC-affiliate-WGRZ.

Mr Faso added: “This is not something that’s going to happen overnight. It’s a monumental task.”

Mike Bedigan25 November 2023 14:58

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in