SCHOHARIE, NY — A limousine failed to stop at an intersection in upstate New York and struck a parked vehicle, killing 20 people in the deadliest transportation accident in the United States in nearly a decade, authorities said Sunday.
The crash happened shortly before 2 p.m. ET Saturday in Schoharie, New York State Police First Deputy Superintendent Chris Fiore told reporters. The 2001 Ford Excursion was traveling southwest on State Route 30 when it didn’t stop at the intersection with State Route 30 A and collided with an SUV in the parking lot, Fiore said.
All 18 people in the limo were killed, including the driver, Fiore said. Two pedestrians near the unoccupied 2015 Toyota Highlander in the parking lot were also killed, he said. The people who died were all adults.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families following this horrific tragedy,” Fiore said.
Authorities are still notifying the families of victims and declined to release the victims’ names, according to Fiore.
He declined to discuss the limo’s origin and destination.
He said authorities were able to figure out the limo’s direction of travel and what occurred based on evidence found at the crash scene. He said there were witnesses to the crash.
Fiore said authorities couldn’t answer several questions at this point, such as if the limo’s occupants were wearing seat belts, whether the vehicle’s brakes were working or whether the driver was speeding.
The speed limit at the intersection is 50 mph, Fiore said.
‘I heard a loud bang’
A National Transportation Safety Board team arrived Sunday to investigate. The team expects to remain on the scene for about five days, NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said.
“Twenty fatalities is just horrific,” Sumwalt said. “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. Colgan Air up at Buffalo killed 40 people, 50 people, but this is the most deadly transportation accident in this country since February 2009.”
The crash happened outside an Apple Barrel Country Store & Cafe. Nearby resident Bridey Finnagen said the crash was loud enough to hear from down the road.
“I heard a loud bang. I came out my front door to see what was going on,” Finnagen told CNN affiliate WTEN.
“I saw a lot of people here at the Apple Barrel out in the parking lot. Then I heard screaming. Then I saw this large van, a very unusual looking vehicle, out here in Schoharie in the bushes and really wrecked, hit a tree.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the first responders who “worked through the night to help.”
“State police are working with federal and local authorities to investigate the crash, and I have directed State agencies to provide every resource necessary to aid in this investigation and determine what led to this tragedy,” Cuomo said in a statement.
“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.”