SCHOHARIE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A crash involving a limousine at a popular upstate New York tourist spot has left 20 people dead.
According to New York State Police, a 2011 Ford Excursion limousine was traveling on State Route 30 in Schoharie on Saturday afternoon when it failed to stop at an intersection with State Route 30-A.
The limo, carrying 18 people on its way to a winery, then drove into a parking lot and struck an empty vehicle. That empty car was hit with such force that it was thrown into two nearby pedestrians who were killed as well, state police officials said.
The deadly crash occurred outside of the Apple Barrel Country Store in Schoharie, about 170 miles north of New York City. The nearby store is reportedly a popular stop for tourists on fall foliage trips.
“I heard a loud bang. I came out my front door to see what was going on. I saw a lot of people here at the Apple Barrel out in the parking lot. Then I heard screaming,” resident Bridey Finnagen told CNN.
Relatives said the limousine was carrying 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 National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is now investigating the cause of the wreck. State officials said they would not be releasing the names of the victims until autopsies have been completed and the families are notified. State Police have set up a dedicated phone line to assist the family members of the victims in Saturday’s crash, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported.
“Throughout the next few days, NTSB investigators will work on scene to thoroughly document the scene and to gather what we call the perishable evidence,” NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was briefed and issued the following statement: “I join all New Yorkers in mourning these deaths and share unspeakable sorrow experienced by their families and love ones during this extremely difficult time.”
In a Facebook post on Saturday, the Apple Barrel Country Store thanked emergency responders for their actions following the “horrific” accident and began a fundraiser for local volunteer emergency units.