Deadly New Year’s collision near Rochester, NY venue being investigated as possible terrorism: Source


(NEW YORK) — A deadly, fiery crash that occurred outside an entertainment venue in upstate New York early New Year’s Day is being investigated as possible terrorism, a law enforcement source briefed on the case told ABC News.

Two people were killed and five others injured after a Ford Expedition struck a Mitsubishi Outlander that was exiting a parking lot near the Kodak Center in Rochester, according to the city’s police chief, David Smith.

The collision occurred around 12:50 a.m. on Monday near a crosswalk, as concertgoers were leaving the venue, Smith said.

“The force of the collision caused the two vehicles to go through a group of pedestrians that were in the crosswalk, and then into two other vehicles,” Smith said at a press briefing on Monday. “There was a large fire associated with the crash that took the Rochester Fire Department almost one hour to extinguish.”

Two occupants of the Mitsubishi Outlander were killed and the driver was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, the chief said. The driver of the Ford Expedition was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries, he said.

Three pedestrians struck in the crash were transported to a local hospital — one in life-threatening condition and two with non-life-threatening injuries, Smith said.

No additional details on the victims have been released.

First responders found at least a dozen gasoline canisters in and around the Ford Expedition once the fire was extinguished, the police chief said.

“We are continuing to work with our federal partners, including the FBI, to learn exactly what led to this crash,” Smith said.

The investigation is being led by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the law enforcement source said. Authorities do not yet know if this was a case of terrorism but they are investigating it that way until they can determine what happened and why, the source said.

Investigators are currently looking through the devices and social media of the driver of the Ford Expedition and are talking to friends and relatives to see if they can piece together additional information that might explain why there were so many gas cans there, the source said.

The driver is from Syracuse and drove his own vehicle to the Syracuse airport, where he rented the extra-large SUV, law enforcement officials confirmed to ABC News.

The Mitsubishi Outlander involved in the crash was an Uber, the officials said.

Local police and Rochester Mayor Malik Evans urged people to come forward with information.

“I know that the community will have lots of questions as it relates to this. I ask them to continue to stay tuned,” Evans said during Monday’s briefing. “More information will come out as we are able to.”

ABC News contributor Richard Frankel said that due to the “numerous” gas cans found at the scene, the deadly incident would need to be looked at as a “potential terrorism matter” until proven otherwise.

“All matters where you’re not sure of what they are, but there’s loss of life and they can’t be explained away immediately as an accident, have to be looked at as if they’re terrorism until they’re proven to not be terrorism,” Frankel said.

Frankel, who previously led the FBI’s office in Buffalo and is an expert in terrorism investigations, said the incident also comes at a time when law enforcement is already concerned about how domestic politics and the Middle East war have been inflaming tensions around the country.

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