A New York family is grieving unbelievable loss. Four sisters from one family, two newlywed couples and two brothers from another family were among the 20 people killed when a limousine taking passengers to a surprise birthday party crashed in New York on Saturday.
The collision was the deadliest US transport accident since a 2009 plane crash in Buffalo, New York that killed 49 people, Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) said.
Officials have not released the victims’ names but some of their identities were confirmed through local media reports and GoFundMe pages.
A group of 17 had climbed into the stretch limousine to celebrate their friend Amy Steenburg’s 30th birthday at a popular tourist spot in upstate New York, according to the Times Union of Rochester, New York.
Steenburg, her three sisters Mary Dyson, Allison King and Abby Jackson, her new husband Axel Steenburg and his brother Rich Steenburg all died in the crash, relatives told The New York Times.
Erin and Shane McGowan were just starting a life together after five months of marriage. Both were killed.
Anthony Vertucci, Erin’s father, shared photos of her wedding day and wrote: “My heart has stopped. Unspeakable tragedy I can’t comprehend and will never come to terms with.”
“She was a beautiful, sweet soul; he was, too, they were very sweet,” said Valerie Abeling, Erin’s aunt.
“They were two very young, beautiful people.”
It passed through an intersection without stopping, hit an empty parked car and then crashed into two pedestrians in a country store parking lot.
Eventually the vehicle came to rest in a shallow ravine and at least six ambulances, two helicopter units and three fire companies responded to the emergency.
All 17 passengers, the limo driver and the two pedestrians were killed, NTSB officials said.
The site of the accident is a danger spot that has long worried locals said Jessica Kirby, the managing director of the Apple Barrel County Store which sits at the intersection.
She added that three tractor-trailers had run through the same stop sign that the limo had and had crashed into the field behind her business.
“More accidents than I can count,” she said in an email to the Associated Press.
“We have been asking for something to be done for years.”
Barbara Douglas, the aunt of the sisters, said the victims were smart, beautiful and lived life to the fullest.
“I don’t know how you say it. You can’t wrap you head around such a tragedy where you have four of your daughters die,” she told reporters at the scene.
She said the group “did the responsible thing getting a limo so they wouldn’t have to drive”.
Surviving sibling Tom King told the New York Post his sisters were “very tight” and known as “the Four Musketeers”. He added: “We all are what’s left. There was seven of us — five sisters and two brothers.”
Additional reporting by agencies