SCHOHARIE, N.Y. – The NTSB has called the limousine accident that claimed 20 lives over the weekend in New York, “horrific”, and “the deadliest transportation accident in the country since 2009” In that accident, 50 people were killed in a plane crash near Buffalo, N.Y.
New York State Police First Deputy Superintendent, Christopher Fiore, said the 2001 Ford Excursion limousine was traveling southwest on state Route 30 in Schoharie, about 170 miles north of New York City and 43 miles west of Albany, when it went through the intersection with Route 30A and struck a parked 2015 Toyota Highlander outside the Apple Barrel Country Store.
One witness said she heard “a loud bang”, and then called 911. She said she heard first responders breaking windows trying to get the victims out of the vehicle.
Valerie Abeling told the Associated Press that the limo was on its way to a birthday party when it crashed. She said that newlyweds Erin Vertucci, 34, (her niece) and Shane McGowan, 30 were among those killed. Abeling added that her daughter had been invited along but was unable to go.
Local officials have previously said the intersection was dangerous, with the potential to cause a deadly crash. Schoharie Town Supervisor, Alan Tavenner, told the Times Union of Albany that transportation officials attempted to make the intersection safer about seven years ago.
Fox News reports that safety issues on such vehicles have arisen before, most notably after a wreck on Long Island in July 2015 in which four women on a winery tour were killed.
A grand jury found that vehicles converted into stretch limousines often don’t have safety measures including side-impact airbags, reinforced rollover protection bars, and accessible emergency exits. That grand jury called on NY Governor, Andrew Cuomo, to assemble a task force on limousine safety.
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.