A limousine carrying four sisters, other relatives and friends to a birthday celebration blew through a stop sign and slammed into a parked SUV outside a store in upstate New York, killing all 18 people in the limo and two pedestrians, officials and victims’ relatives said Sunday.

20 dead in crash of limo

The weekend crash was characterized by authorities as the deadliest U.S. transportation accident in nearly a decade. The crash turned a relaxed Saturday afternoon to horror at a rural spot popular with tourists viewing the region’s fall foliage. Relatives said the limousine was carrying the sisters and their friends to a 30th birthday celebration for the youngest.

“They were wonderful girls,” said their aunt, Barbara Douglas, speaking with reporters Sunday. “They’d do anything for you and they were very close to each other and they loved their family.”

Douglas said three of the sisters were with their husbands, and she identified them as Amy and Axel Steenburg, Abigail and Adam Jackson, Mary and Rob Dyson and Allison King.

“They did the responsible thing getting a limo so they wouldn’t have to drive anywhere,” she said, adding the couples had several children between them who they left at home.

The 2001 Ford Excursion limousine was traveling southwest on Route 30 in Schoharie, about 170 miles (270 kilometers) north of New York City, when it failed to stop at 2 p.m. Saturday at a T-junction with state Route 30A, State Police First Deputy Superintendent Christopher Fiore said at a news conference in Latham, New York.

It’s the deadliest transportation accident since February 2009, when Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed near Buffalo, New York, killing 50 people, Sumwalt said.

And it appears to be the deadliest land-vehicle accident since a bus ferrying nursing home patients away from Hurricane Rita caught fire in Texas 2005, killing 23.

The couple was married in June at a “beautiful wedding” in upstate New York, Abeling said. “They had everything going for them.”

Vertucci, who grew up in Amsterdam, New York, was an administrative assistant at St. Mary’s Healthcare in Amsterdam, Abeling said.

Limousines built in factories are already required to meet stringent safety regulations, but when cars are converted into limos, safety features are sometimes removed, leading to gaps in safety protocols, the grand jury wrote.

On Sunday, New York’s senior U.S. Sen., Chuck Schumer, noted he asked NTSB to toughen standards after the 2015 crash. “I commend the NTSB’s immediate aid on scene and am very hopeful that we will have concrete answers soon,” Schumer said.

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