Authorities have confirmed that a newly married couple were among the 20 fatalities in a traffic accident Saturday that has resulted in the worst loss of life in nine years.
The crash took place in upstate New York, where a limousine careened through a stop sign and collided with another car.
New York State Police held a press conference Sunday in which they stated that “18 of the victims were in the limousine, including the driver,” and also that “two pedestrians standing nearby were also struck and killed.” The National Transportation Safety Board, which has launched an investigation into the accident, noted that it was the “most deadly transportation accident” since 2009, when 50 people perished during the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in Buffalo.
The vehicle was reported to be en route to a birthday party and traveling at around 60 miles an hour when the collision occurred. The Daily Mail reported that the group was on its way to celebrate the 30th birthday of Amy Steenburg.
Tragically, among the dead were newlyweds Erin Vertucci, 34, and Shane McGowan, 30.
In addition, four sisters also perished in the brutal impact. Steenburg’s three sisters, Mary Dyson, Allison King and Abby Jackson, plus her new husband Axel Steenburg and his brother Rich Steenburg, were all killed.
— Mercedes Williams (@MercedesTVnews) October 6, 2018
“I join all New Yorkers in mourning these deaths and share in the unspeakable sorrow experienced by their families and loved ones during this extremely difficult time,” said New York governor Andrew Cuomo in a statement following the horrific crash.
— CBS 6 Albany – WRGB (@CBS6Albany) October 7, 2018
Eyewitnesses described the horror of the impact, which occurred just outside Apple Barrel Country Store in Schoharie.
“I heard this loud bang, I saw a lot of people here at the Apple Barrel [store and cafe] out in the parking lot,” said local resident Bridey Finnagen, according to the BBC. “Then I heard screaming.”
Jessica Kirby, the manager at the store, told The New York Times that the accident occurred just outside her storefront and that her customers were struck by the limo. “That limo was coming down that hill probably over 60 miles per hour,” she added.
“As you may be aware, there was a horrific accident in front of our business today,” the store wrote in a Facebook post. “First, we want to thank all of the emergency services that responded. We are so thankful for all of you. We hope you will come and share your smiles, love, friendship and hugs with us.”
The store is also accepting donations, which will go to “local volunteer emergency services.”
“They are the heroes of our small community,” the store added. “Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone that was affected by the events of today. You will always be part of our family.”
There have been many questions raised over the condition of the stretch SUV limo, with the Washington Post reporting that passenger Erin Vertucci texted her aunt, Valerie Abeling, to say the limo was “in terrible condition.” The party had initially booked some sort of bus to transport them to the venue but were assigned the limousine after their original vehicle broke down.
The particular section of road and intersection where the accident took place is notoriously dangerous, according to a local official.
“There have been tractor trailers that have come barreling down that hill and it was a miracle they didn’t kill somebody,” Schoharie Town Supervisor Alan Tavenner told the Albany Times Union.
It is difficult to fathom just how many families are in tatters as a result of this senseless tragedy. Please take some time out today to pray for all those affected.