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Law enforcement personnel block off the entrance to the Rainbow Bridge border crossing, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023, in Niagara Falls, N.Y. (AP) Law enforcement personnel block off the entrance to the Rainbow Bridge border crossing, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023, in Niagara Falls, N.Y. (AP)

Law enforcement personnel block off the entrance to the Rainbow Bridge border crossing, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023, in Niagara Falls, N.Y. (AP)

Loreben Tuquero
By Loreben Tuquero November 27, 2023

FBI said a vehicle explosion at Rainbow Bridge in New York wasn’t a terrorist attack

If Your Time is short

  • The FBI said the Nov. 22 crash had no links to terrorist activity. The case has been turned over to the Niagara Falls Police Department as a traffic investigation.

The sight was unbelievable: a speeding car became airborne, crashed and burst into flames near the U.S.-Canada border. Two people were killed and another was injured.

Social media posts then pointed to a possible reason for the crash at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, New York. 

"UPDATE: Terrorist attack confirmed," read the edited caption on a Nov. 22 Facebook post that initially had said police were "approaching this as a terrorist attack." 

Screenshot from Facebook

Another Facebook post included a screenshot of a headline about the Rainbow Bridge explosion, with the caption, "Confirmed attempted terror attack per FBI."

These posts were flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Similar claims also spread on TikTok. "A terrorist attack just happened in the United States at the Rainbow Bridge," one TikTok user said in a Nov. 22 video. TikTok identified this video as part of its efforts to counter inauthentic, misleading or false content. (Read more about PolitiFact's partnership with TikTok.)

The FBI said the crash was not linked to any terrorist activity. 

In a Nov. 22 statement, the FBI’s Buffalo, New York, field office said, "A search of the scene revealed no explosive materials, and no terrorism nexus was identified. The matter has been turned over to the Niagara Falls Police Department as a traffic investigation."

The crash happened around 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time on Nov. 22. A Fox News correspondent initially posted on X that unnamed sources said it was an attempted terrorist attack and the car was full of explosives. 

The Fox News correspondent later clarified her post, writing, "High-level police sources say bomb techs on the scene immediately alerted all authorities that this was an attempted terror attack because they had never seen a car explosion with a debris field like that before and believed there were several explosives in the car." 

At 1:41 p.m. Eastern Time, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul posted on X that she had directed the New York State Police and the FBI Terrorism Task Force to monitor all points of entry to New York. 

Later, in a press conference around 5 p.m. the same day, Hochul said, "There is no sign of terrorist activity with respect to this crash." 

The people in the car who died in the crash were identified as Kurt P. Villani and Monica Villani, a married couple who owned businesses in western New York. Authorities said they were headed to a concert in Toronto.

The car was a 2022 Bentley Flying Spur, an ultraluxury model that can reach 60 miles per hour in 4 seconds. The New York Times reported that investigators are considering whether a mechanical failure could have caused the car to accelerate.

We rate the claim that a "terrorist attack (was) confirmed" in Niagara Falls as False. ​

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FBI said a vehicle explosion at Rainbow Bridge in New York wasn’t a terrorist attack

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