The FBI has concluded its investigation into a fiery car crash this week that killed two people at a checkpoint along the U.S.-Canada border in Niagara Falls.
"A search of the scene revealed no explosive materials, and no terrorism nexus was identified," the FBI's Buffalo office said in a statement. "The matter has been turned over to the Niagara Falls Police Department as a traffic investigation."
The department's Crash Management Unit has taken over the investigation but said in a press release that "due to the complexity of the incident, the investigation will take some time to complete."
CBP is working closely with @FBI, federal, state & local partners in response to a vehicle explosion at Rainbow Bridge which remains closed. Out of abundance of caution, CBP temporarily suspended inbound/outbound traffic at 3 other Buffalo crossings that have since reopened. pic.twitter.com/pTXyUsavRB
— CBP (@CBP) November 22, 2023
The high-speed crash was initially reported as an explosion on the eve of Thanksgiving, just as travelers and shoppers were preparing for the holiday. The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission said all four of its crossings — Rainbow, Lewiston, Whirlpool and Peace Bridge — were closed briefly Wednesday.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed when it collided with a median, went airborne, and crashed into a U.S. Customs and Border Protection booth before exploding into flames.
"This vehicle basically incinerated. Nothing is left but the engine," Hochul added. "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... to be able to piece together the real story."
The Niagara Falls Police Department said the two victims in the crash have been identified as 53-year-old Kurt P. Villani and his 53-year-old wife Monica Villani, both of Grand Island, New York. Relatives of the couple have requested privacy.
"We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all that extended prayers, condolences and well wishes," the family said in a statement obtained by Scripps News. "We are deeply touched. At this point, we are requesting privacy so we may begin the process of healing. Thank you."
Thousands of vehicles cross the Rainbow Bridge crossing each day, which offers scenic views of Niagara Falls. It still remains unclear why the car in this incident was traveling at such a high rate of speed.
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