Married New York couple were in car that crashed, exploded at Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls police say | CBC News

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A man and his wife from Grand Island, N.Y., have been named by police as the driver and passenger in this week’s fiery crash on the American side of the Rainbow Bridge that shut border crossings and set Canadian and U.S. emergency officials into high gear. 

Kurt P. Villani and Monica Villani, both 53, were in the vehicle, the City of Niagara Falls Police Department in New York said in a statement on Facebook on Friday morning. 

Police have not confirmed who was driving the car at the time of the crash. They said they’re still investigating and the city extends its “sincere condolences to the families as they deal with this tragedy.” 

The Villanis own Gui’s Lumber, which CBC Hamilton reached Friday to confirm a statement from their family.

The statement says, “We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all that [have] extended prayers, condolences and well wishes. We are deeply touched. At this point, we would request privacy so we may begin the process of healing.” 

The incident was initially investigated as possible terrorism, but that was ruled out later Wednesday. It’s now being treated as a traffic investigation.

WATCH | What’s happening after Rainbow Bridge blast determined a traffic investigation:

Rainbow Bridge reopens after car explosion

Featured VideoThe Rainbow Bridge border crossing at Niagara Falls has reopened one day after a car crashed in a fiery explosion and two people were killed on the American side. The FBI said they found no connection to terrorism or explosives in the car.

A security camera that captured the crash shows a car travelling from the U.S. at high speed toward the Rainbow Bridge that connects Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Niagara Falls, Ont. The car is seen hitting an object and flying into the air before crashing to the ground and exploding in flames. 

The incident happened around 11:30 a.m. ET and resulted in the closure of the Rainbow and three other nearby bridges that serve as border crossings between the U.S. and Canada. Three bridges reopened later Wednesday and the Rainbow reopened on Thursday, the American Thanksgiving. 

FBI Buffalo found no explosive materials in the car

Multiple agencies — including the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) — were involved in the aftermath of the explosion.

While some right-wing U.S. media initially reported it was a terrorist attack, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters Wednesday evening “there is no sign of terrorist activity in this crash.”

A vehicle burns at a border crossing station.
The vehicle is seen burning at the Rainbow Bridge U.S. border crossing with Canada on Wednesday in this still image from video. (Saleman Alwishah via Reuters)

FBI Buffalo said it had found no explosive materials. 

A U.S. businessman seeking the Republican presidential nomination used the incident, during an appearance on Fox News, to promote an aspect of his platform: Building a border wall with Canada.

“I have been sounding the alarm bell about the northern border for a long time,” said Vivek Ramaswamy, despite the absence of any evidence pointing to terrorism.

In the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre cited inaccurate news reports of a “terrorist attack” in a question to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“It is the principal responsibility of the government to protect the people. Can the prime minister give us an update on what he knows and what action plan he will immediately implement to bring home security for our people?”

Trudeau responded that the government was “taking this extraordinarily seriously,” but there were “a lot of questions” about the incident.

Hochul pointed out that it would take some time to get “the real story” about what happened as the vehicle basically “incinerated” and nothing was left but the engine.

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