A weekend crash in upstate New York that killed 20 people, including 18 in a limousine headed to a birthday party, was the deadliest transportation-related accident in nearly a decade, authorities said.
The 2001 Ford Excursion limousine, carrying family and friends to the party, blew through a stop sign across the street from the Apple Barrel Country Store in Schoharie, roughly 170 miles north of New York City, shortly before 2 p.m. Saturday, investigators said. The vehicle apparently struck two pedestrians and an unoccupied SUV in the store’s parking lot before ending up in a shallow ravine.
All 17 passengers inside the limousine, as well as its driver and the two pedestrians, were killed in the crash, making it the deadliest transportation-related accident in the U.S. since 2009, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The limousine driver did not have the appropriate license to operate the vehicle, which failed a Department of Motor Vehicles inspection last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Monday.
Locals have long expressed concerns about the intersection where the crash occurred, reported The Associated Press. At least three tractor-trailers have run through the same stop sign and into a field behind the Apple Barrel Country Store in the last decade, according to the store manager.
Investigators hadn’t yet released the victims’ names, though family members and social media pages identified some who were killed.
Those killed included two pairs of newlyweds, two brothers from one family, and four sisters from another, reported Reuters. The limousine passengers were celebrating the 30th birthday of the youngest sister, relatives said. Most of the victims were from the Amsterdam, New York, area, according to a tweet from a state assemblyman.
Here’s what we know about the victims so far:
Amy and Axel Steenburg
Amy and Axel Steenburg had been married less than three months. The couple had rented the limousine to celebrate Amy’s 30th birthday with 15 of their friends and family members.
Officials said the limousine was on its way to a surprise party for Amy at an upstate New York brewery.
“They did the responsible thing getting a limo so they wouldn’t have to drive anywhere,” Amy’s aunt, Barbara Douglas, told reporters on Sunday.
Amy’s three older sisters also died in the crash.
“They were wonderful girls,” Douglas said. “They’d do anything for you and they were very close to each other and they loved their family.”
Abigail and Adam Jackson
Abigail was one of Amy’s sisters. She was a teacher in the Amsterdam School District, reported The New York Times.
The Jacksons leave behind two young children: Archer, 4, and Elle, 16 months.
Mary and Rob Dyson
Mary was another of Amy’s sisters. She and her husband Rob lived in Watertown, New York, according to her Facebook page.
Mary was an Army veteran and coach at a local Crossfit gym. She worked as an engineer at Upstate Construction Services, reported WWNY-TV.
The Dysons are survived by their 3-year-old son, Isaac.
“Rob and Mary were amazing people and devoted parents to Isaac and will be missed dearly by so many,” reads a GoFundMe page to raise money for Isaac.
Allison was another of Amy’s sisters. She lived in Amsterdam, New York, according to her Facebook page.
Axel’s 34-year-old brother was also killed in the crash. The brothers both worked for GlobalFoundries, which manufactures semiconductors, according to their Facebook pages. He is survived by his 10-year-old daughter and 14-year-old stepson, reported the Times.
Erin and Shane McGowan
Like the Steenburgs, the McGowans were married in June.
“Erin and Shane honestly are both just the life of the room, very up people positive outgoing very involved and very caring about what was going on in other people lives,” Erin’s cousin, Tyler DeLuca, told WSTM-TV.
Cushing, Erin McGowan’s 31-year-old cousin, died in the crash with his girlfriend, Amanda Halse. He worked for the New York state Senate’s technology services unit, and played in recreational dodge ball and softball leagues.
“It’s hard to put into words the kind of guy that he was,” Cushing’s friend, Michelle Radley, told The Albany Times-Union. “He put everyone before himself. He would have the most amazing game ever playing dodge ball and he wouldn’t even admit it, he would go out of his way to tell you good job.”
Amanda, 26, had been dating Patrick for roughly a year, her sister Karina Halse told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“She was such a charismatic person and she just wanted to make sure everyone was happy and I’m so grateful that she was my sister out of everyone else on this earth,” Karina Halse told ABC.
Amanda Rivenburg, a friend of Amy’s, was an associate director at Living Resources, an Albany-based organization serving people with disabilities.
“My heart is broken!!” Amanda’s mother, Donna Floyd Rivenburg, wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday. “RIP my baby girl. Mommy loves you until we meet again!”
Rachael Cavosie, another friend of Amy’s, also died in the crash, The Times Union reported.
“She’s a soul that touched so many lives including mine,” her cousin wrote in a Facebook post.
Cavosie is survived by her parents, a sister and two brothers.
Savannah Bursese, a friend of Amy’s, was reportedly another victim of the crash.
“Savannah was a loving daughter, friend, girlfriend, and sister,” reads a GoFundMe page started by Bursese’s sorority sisters. “There are no words that can heal the friends and family of Savannah’s pain as a single moment has now changed their lives forever.”
Bursese’s boyfriend, Matthew Coons, a U.S. Army veteran and fitness instructor, reportedly also perished in the accident.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Coons’ aunt, Suzanne Douglass, described her nephew as a man with a “golden heart” who “made you laugh so hard until you cried.”
Brian Hough, an assistant professor of geology at SUNY Oswego, was one of the two pedestrians killed in the accident, Syracuse.com reported. Family members on social media identified Hough’s father-in-law as the other.
SUNY Oswego mourned Hough on Monday but did not confirm the cause of his death, saying the school was “still awaiting official confirmation from New York State Police.”
Deborah F. Stanley, the school’s president, described Hough, who’d been a visiting geology professor since 2016, as a “dedicated faculty member who inspired his students to learn and understand at a deeper level, and whose contributions were often sought by his colleagues.”
“He will be deeply missed and remembered fondly by all, always,” Stanley said in a statement.
The driver of the limousine has been identified by family members on social media as Scott Lisinicchia.
“It hurts me to a core to have to bury my husband,” his wife, Kim Lisinicchia, wrote on Facebook. “I miss him so very much.”
Clarification: The headline in a previous version of this story implied the limo driver was attending the birthday party and has been amended.