Authorities ID husband, wife killed in explosion at US-Canadian border | What we know about the case

Investigators believe the man had plans to attend a KISS concert in Canada, but when it was canceled he went to a casino instead

Friday, November 24, 2023
New York husband, wife killed in explosion at US-Canada bridge, sources say
Investigators believe a New York man and his wife were the two people killed in a car that crashed and exploded at a US-Canada border Wednesday

NEW YORK -- Investigators have identified the married couple killed Wednesday in a fiery explosion near the US-Canadian border that prompted a massive law enforcement response.

Kurt P. Villani and his wife Monica Villani, both 53, died in the car crash on the US side of the Rainbow Bridge crossing, the Niagara Falls Police Department said in a news release. The couple lived in Grand Island, New York, the police department said.

Relatives of the couple thanked well-wishers and asked the public for privacy.

"We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all that extended prayers, condolences and well wishes," family members said in a statement issued through the Erie County Sheriff's Office. "We are deeply touched. At this point, we are requesting privacy so we may begin the process of healing. Thank you."

SEE ALSO: New York husband, wife killed in explosion at US-Canada bridge, sources say

Investigators believe a New York man and his wife were the two people killed in a car that crashed and exploded at a US-Canada border Wednesday

CNN previously reported investigators believed a man was traveling with his wife in a 2022 Bentley at a high rate of speed when the vehicle hit a curb, then a guardrail that sent the vehicle airborne into the secondary screening area of Rainbow Bridge, law enforcement sources told CNN.

Despite initial concerns of a terror attack, the FBI has not found any connection to terrorism, and no explosives were found at the scene, the agency's Buffalo field office announced Wednesday night. The case was turned over to local police as a traffic investigation.

"I want to be very, very clear to Americans and New Yorkers: At this time there is no indication of a terrorist attack," New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a news conference Wednesday evening.

Investigators believe the man who died had plans to attend a KISS concert in Canada, but when it was canceled, he went to a casino in the US instead. The crash occurred sometime after the couple left the casino, law enforcement sources said.

The explosion prompted a temporary shutdown of all four bridges between Canada and the US near Niagara Falls on one of the busiest travel days of the year. Three of the bridges reopened later Wednesday, but Rainbow Bridge remained closed overnight. The port reopened at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, US Customs and Border Protection said.

Crash looked 'surreal,' governor says

The vehicle was traveling at an "extraordinarily high rate of speed" when it approached the border crossing around 11:30 a.m. and hit a barrier, Hochul said.

The impact sent the car soaring several feet into the air before it came crashing down into a Customs and Border Protection booth and burst into flames, Hochul said. She described footage of the incident as "absolutely surreal."

An officer working in the booth was treated for minor injuries, she said.

SEE ALSO: Rainbow Bridge: No evidence crash, explosion was terrorist attack, gov. says

The FBI has concluded its investigation into a fiery Rainbow border bridge crash, ruling out terrorism.

The vehicle was "basically incinerated," and pieces of the wreckage were scattered across more than a dozen checkpoint booths, the governor said.

Rickie Wilson saw the car flying past him "almost like a movie," and for a moment, he thought it was a plane, the witness told CNN affiliate WKBW.

FBI probed blast as possible terrorist threat

In the aftermath of the crash, federal investigators scrambled to determine whether the incident was an act of terrorism. Within hours, officials shared preliminary findings and assured the public they hadn't found any indication of terrorist motivation.

"But we will continue to stay vigilant. We will continue to make sure that the information we have is passed onto the public," US Attorney Trini Ross of the Western District of New York said in a news conference.

The leaders of both the US and Canada were briefed on the incident as the investigation was underway. The initial explosion also triggered heightened security precautions around the region, including the evacuation of local government offices on the US side.

Buffalo Niagara International Airport closed to international arriving and departing flights but later lifted the restriction, according to the US Federal Aviation Administration. All cars coming into the airport were also being screened by bomb-detecting dogs, a Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority spokesperson said. And Amtrak temporarily suspended part of its cross-border route connecting New York to Toronto.

Officials investigating the crash had been looking into an individual, but working through the Joint Terrorism Task Force did not find any worrisome information, FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Matthew Miraglia said Wednesday afternoon.

By Wednesday night, the FBI announced it had concluded its investigation at the scene and turned the case over to the Niagara Falls Police Department as a traffic investigation.

CNN's Zenebou Sylla, Pete Muntean, Raja Razek, Dave Alsup, Josh Campbell, Sabrina Souza and Lauren del Valle contributed to this report.


& 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.