Twenty people lost their lives in a horrific crash Saturday afternoon in rural upstate New York. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports on the accident in Schoharie.
On Saturday afternoon in the rural town of Schoharie, about 40 miles west of Albany, a 2001 Ford Excursion limousine failed to stop at the intersection of New York State Routes 30 and 30A. The crash would be one of the worst accidents in recent history.
On Sunday morning, New York State Police revealed 20 people had died in the crash.
State Police First Deputy Superintendent Christopher Fiore, outlined the accident to reporters Sunday afternoon at State Police Headquarters in Latham.
“The limousine traveled across the intersection into a parking lot, and struck a 2015 Toyota Highlander that was unoccupied and parked. Two pedestrians standing nearby were also struck and killed,” said Fiore.
All 18 adults inside the limo, including the driver, were killed. Fiore said the two pedestrians were also adults.
New York State Police are investigating the accident, as is the National Transportation Safety Board.
NTSB Chair Robert Sumwalt appeared alongside officials Sunday afternoon, saying the crash is one of the worst incidents he’s seen in his 12 years on the NTSB board.
“This is the most deadly transportation accident in this country since February of 2009,” said Sumwalt.
In February 2009, the Colgan Air crash near Buffalo killed 50 people.
As of Sunday afternoon, State Police had not released the names of the Schoharie victims, pending notification of the families. Autopsies were scheduled to be performed at Albany Medical Center Hospital.
With the investigation in its infancy, officials did not provide details as to the exact cause of the accident or if passengers inside the limousine were wearing seatbelts. NTSB staff will remain in Schoharie throughout the week.
Governor Andrew Cuomo released a statement Sunday afternoon mourning the loss of the 20 individuals and commending first responders. The governor directed state agencies to “provide every resource necessary” as investigations continue.
The accident occurred in front of the Apple Barrel Country Store. The store was open on Sunday, and said on Facebook that it was taking donations for the victims.
Schoharie Town Supervisor Alan Tavenner drove by the scene on his way to church Sunday morning. He called the intersection where the crash occurred “dangerous.”
“It was modified about 10 years ago. DOT [New York State Department of Transportation] made changes to it. They came to the town and we objected to the way they were going to change it. The local residents objected to it. But DOT apparently thought they knew best and they converted it to a standard T intersection. About four years ago they finally banned tractor trailers from the side road, from Route 30, coming down because they had at least two instances where tractor trailers lost their brakes and went through the intersection.”
Tavenner said the intersection is at the bottom of a steep hill. Speaking to WAMC before Sunday’s press conference, he called the crash, in the town of about 3,000, a tragedy.
“It’s just a tragedy. It really is. It’s an incredible number of people for a community this small. I still don’t know where they were all from. I know one of them was a girl that went to school here in Schoharie.”
The Schoharie Central School District said in a Sunday statement none of its students or staff were victims of the accident, but counselors will be on hand when students return Tuesday after the Columbus Day holiday.
A telephone line has also been set up for the families of victims at 1-877-672-4911.