Four international border crossings in Ontario’s Niagara region were closed Wednesday afternoon following a vehicle explosion on the American side of the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls.
The Peace Bridge at Fort Erie, Queenston-Lewiston Bridge at Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Whirlpool Bridge in Niagara Falls reopened late in the afternoon.
Both bridge authorities will be working with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to extend staffing and deal with the closure-related backlog of traffic, the Canadian Trucking Alliance reports.
While the Rainbow Bridge remains closed, it does not support truck traffic.
A ball of flames
The Associated Press reports that two people in the exploding vehicle were declared dead at the scene.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing a speeding car and then a ball of flames when a vehicle crashed and exploded at a U.S. border checkpoint.
The Associated Press quoted one eyewitness who told WGRZ-TV that the vehicle had been approaching from the U.S. side of the border when it suddenly began to accelerate at a high rate of speed.
“All of a sudden, he went up in the air and then it was a ball of fire like 30 or 40 feet high,” Mike Guenther said.
“I never saw anything like it.”
Law enforcement told NBC journalists that no explosives were found in the vehicle.
But there are conflicting reports as to whether it was an act of terrorism.
Niagara Region Police Services (NRPS) said on X that while at this moment its involvement in the investigation is minimal, it encourages the public to reference official source information rather than speculating on a cause.
Diverting to Lansdowne
CBSA is recommending that traffic destined for the affected ports of entry should be diverted to the Lansdowne port of entry until further notice.
“If you have already submitted your EDI to one of the impacted [port of entries], you are not required [to] change your EDI transmission or to submit another one if you are deferring to Lansdowne,” it added.
“This is obviously a very serious situation in Niagara Falls,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Parliament, as he excused himself from Question Period in the House of Commons to be briefed further.
“We are taking this extraordinary seriously,” he added.
Niagara traffic delays
“You can expect heavy delays in the Niagara area,” OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said on the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Highway Safety’s X account. NRPS added delays can be expected on municipal roads as well.
TruckNews.com Equipment Editor Jim Park reports that snow plows were moved into position to block access to the Rainbow Bridge.
While commercial trucks don’t cross the Rainbow Bridge, about 6,500 trucks cross the Peace Bridge at Fort Erie and Queenston-Lewiston Bridge at Niagara-on-the-Lake every day.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on X he is aware of the situation unfolding on the Rainbow Bridge.
“Our provincial law enforcement is actively engaged in assessing the situation. They are working with local law enforcement and are providing support as required,” wrote Ford.
While the FBI is leading the investigation, the CBSA is collaborating with U.S. counterparts on this matter.
NRPS says there is no known threat to the Canadian side of the border. However, it adds the public should expect to see an increased police presence in the area.
Thursday marks U.S. Thanksgiving.
- This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available. With files from the Canadian Press.
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