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On the ground in Niagara Falls: What is known about the Rainbow Bridge car explosion

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

A car explosion today at a bridge spanning the U.S.-Canada border at Niagara Falls killed two people and injured one U.S. customs officer. New York State Governor Kathy Hochul said there was no sign of terrorist activity but that authorities are continuing to investigate.

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KATHY HOCHUL: 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.

SUMMERS: The blast late this morning prompted authorities to close bridges and step up security at other points of entry. Grant Ashley of member station WBFO is on the line from Niagara Falls. Hi, Grant.

GRANT ASHLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Juana. How are you?

SUMMERS: I'm well. Grant, this incident has prompted just a ton of speculation. What can you tell us about what we actually know about what happened so far?

ASHLEY: So there are still some gaps in our knowledge, but we've learned a lot in the last two hours. As you mentioned, we know that two people are dead, although authorities have not said who they were or where they are from other than that the driver was from western New York. We now know that the car was traveling from the U.S. side of the border at high speeds. There were some conflicting accounts about where the vehicle was coming from. I spoke to one witness who's a tour guide for Niagara Falls after he was interviewed by the FBI. He said that, you know, he saw a large, loud explosion and that the vehicle launched about 10 or 15 feet in the air. You know, Customs and Border Patrol, ATF and local and state law enforcement were all over the area. And the FBI is continuing to investigate what happened, although as, you know, we heard Governor Hochul say, it's likely not a terrorist incident.

SUMMERS: Right. As we mentioned, this explosion did cause officials to lock down border crossings. What other types of response did we see from them?

ASHLEY: Yes. So they closed down the other three bridges in the area in addition to the Rainbow Bridge. You know, this is coming on a big holiday travel day, you know, and the - southern Ontario and western New York are pretty well connected. So it definitely disrupted things down here. The other three bridges other than the Rainbow Bridge are open now. You know, I drove under the Peace Bridge, and I can confirm there are vehicles going back and forth. But, you know, they also - you know, there was a big response at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. You know, this interrupted operations, but the airport never closed. They just upped screenings, and cars had to go through security checks.

SUMMERS: Those increased security restrictions that you've been talking about - in light of the governor saying that there's no sign of terrorist activity, have those loosened up so far?

ASHLEY: Yes. So, you know, I know the Erie County sheriff said that the Turkey Trot is back on tomorrow in Buffalo. You know, the other three bridges are open. You know, it's really just increased patrols, and the Rainbow Bridge is still closed.

SUMMERS: From what you're hearing at this point, are you expecting that the FBI and other agencies are continuing to investigate?

ASHLEY: Yes. So I can tell you that the FBI is continuing to investigate, in coordination with state and other law enforcement. You know, this is, you know, likely going to be - you know, the worst of it's behind us. But, you know, this is still an ongoing situation.

SUMMERS: That's right. We're going to be continuing to learn more about this. WBFO's Grant Ashley reporting from Niagara Falls, N.Y. Grant, thank you.

ASHLEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Grant Ashley