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Car blast near Niagara Falls shuts down US-Canada crossing, kills two

NIAGARA FALLS (AFP) – A car erupted into a fireball at a United States (US)-Canada checkpoint near Niagara Falls on Wednesday, killing the two occupants, triggering border closures and sparking a massive security alert on the eve of a major holiday.

The regional Federal Bureau of Investigation field office concluded the blast, which occurred around 640 kilometres northwest of New York City, was not linked to terrorism.

Witnesses described seeing a car travelling at high speed before it crashed into a checkpoint barrier and exploded into flames.

The blast happened at the major Rainbow Bridge crossing near Niagara Falls with nothing left of the vehicle which was incinerated except for the engine, according to New York Governor Kathy Hochul.

Confirming the two fatalities, she suggested the vehicle may have been from western New York state. The victims’ identities have not yet been made public.

Emergency responders walk through a gate to a checkpoint at the Rainbow Bridge, near Niagara Falls. PHOTO: AP

Authorities on both sides of the border activated emergency responses and images showed access roads to the crossing swarming with emergency service workers and vehicles.

The White House said President Joe Biden had been briefed and was closely following developments.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Parliament “this is obviously a very serious situation”.

“We’ve seen this car coming down towards the border and he was flying – over 100 miles an hour,” Canadian Mike Guenther, who was visiting the US, told CBS News.

The car then swerved and “hit the fence, went flying up into the air”, he said. “He went up into the air and we just seen the fireball and that’s all we could see. It was just covered in smoke everywhere.”

The incident came on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday, one of the busiest US travel days when millions of Americans take to the roads and skies.