20 people killed in limousine crash in New York state, police say

Twenty people were killed after a limousine crash in upstate New York, officials said Sunday.

The deaths were the result of a two-vehicle accident in Schoharie, New York, that took place around 1:55 p.m. ET Saturday, according to New York State Police.

The names of the victims were not being immediately released Sunday as next of kin were being notified, police said in a statement.

Eighteen people in the limousine were killed, including the driver, and two pedestrians were also killed.

During a press conference on Sunday, New York State Police First Deputy Superintendent Christopher Fiore said the limousine failed to stop at a T-intersection and traveled through a nearby parking lot where it hit an unoccupied 2015 Toyota Highlander.

The Toyota Highlander then struck the two pedestrians.

“Twenty fatalities is just horrific,” National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said during the press conference. “I’ve been on the board for 12 years and this is one of the biggest losses of life that we’ve seen in a long, long time.”

Sumwalt said the NTSB would be investigating a range of factors that might have contributed to the crash, including road conditions, mechanical conditions of the limousine, and emergency response.

Personnel from the New York State Police, Schoharie County Sheriff’s Office, as well as multiple fire and emergency medical services responded to the scene on Saturday, law enforcement officials said. The NTSB said it would send a team Sunday to investigate the limousine crash.

Witnesses told NBC affiliate WNYT that the limousine was carrying a group of people.

“I heard some screaming. It looked serious because people were running back and forth,” Bridey Finegan told the station.

The accident occurred in front of the Apple Barrel Country Store and Cafe in Schoharie, according to WNYT.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the victim’s families, our customers who tried to assist, and our staff who tried to comfort,” Jessica Kirby, the managing director of the store, said in a statement to NBC News. “We are a small community and you all will forever be a part of our family.”

“Once the victim’s families have had time to cope and grieve we will do whatever we are able to do to assist them,” she added.

WNYT reported it was not the first time an accident occurred at the site of the crash and that large trucks were recently banned from coming down the hill into the intersection to prevent possible accidents.

Alan Tavenner, the town supervisor of Schoharie, said the area where the accident occurred was “dangerous” despite attempts a few years ago to fix it. The road is a steep downhill to a T-intersection. Tavenner said several years ago there were several instances “where tractor trailers didn’t stop and went across the state highway and ended up in the parking lot of that store.”

He added that officials then added additional postings and stopped the tractor trailers from being allowed on that area.

“That’s a positive step, but it didn’t help yesterday,” he added.

“I can see how it would be be easy to not realize you’re coming to a stop there if you don’t know the area,” he said, adding, “If somebody comes down and doesn’t hit their break or is going too fast, they’re at a loss, the alignment of it is kind of tough.”

On Sunday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement that his “heart breaks for the 20 people who lost their lives in this horrific accident,” adding that he had directed New York State agencies to provide federal and local authorities with necessary resources to investigate what led to the crash.

“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,” Cuomo said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also said he was heartbroken upon learning of the accident.

“May God bless the families who lost loved ones, as well as my dear friends from Schoharie emergency service agencies who responded,” Schumer wrote on Twitter.

 

 

This article originally appeared on NBC