Limo Crash

WTEN via AP

Police: 20 people killed in limousine crash in Schoharie

October 07, 2018 - 4:24 pm
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SCHOHARIE, N.Y. (1010 WINS) -- A limousine blew a stop sign at the end of a highway in Schoharie county, plowing into a parked car, killing all 18 passengers and two pedestrians in the deadliest transportation accident in almost a decade, officials said Sunday.

The collision happened at the intersection of routes 30 and 30A at around 2 p.m. Saturday. Police originally reported that there were “multiple fatalities.”

The 2001 Ford Excursion limousine was traveling southbound on Route 30 when it failed to stop at a T-junction with Route 30A, State Police First Deputy Superintendent Christopher Fiore said at a news conference.

The limo went across the road and hit a parked SUV at the Apple Barrel Country Store. The driver and 17 passengers, as well as two people who were outside the vehicle were killed.

Witnesses said the crash “sounded like an explosion” and there were reports of multiple body bags leaving the area.

On Sunday, Jessica Kirby, who owns the Apple Barrel where the accident occurred told WRGB-TV that the road has been dangerous for years.

“The speed limit is definitely an issue. When they redid the intersection they put in a turning lane for us, but then changed it to put arrows on both directions, so now people use it to pass,” Kirby said. “We’ve seen so many near misses because of that.”

In a Facebook post on Saturday, the store thanked emergency responders for their actions. The store posted Sunday that it was open “and could use your hugs.”

The names of the victims were not immediately released. State Police set up a hotline for family members.

It was not clear how fast the limousine was traveling or if the passengers were wearing seatbelts.

The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to remain in the area for days to continue an investigation into the incident.

 "This is one of the biggest losses of life that we've seen in a long, long time," said NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt.

The accident is the deadliest since February 2009 when Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed in Buffalo and killed 50 people.

There was no information Sunday on the limousine or its integrity. But 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.

They were in a Lincoln Town Car that had been cut apart and rebuilt in a stretch configuration to accommodate more passengers. The limousine was trying to make a U-turn and was struck by a pickup.

A grand jury found that vehicles converted into stretch limousines often don't have safety measures including side-impact air bags, reinforced rollover protection bars and accessible emergency exits. That grand jury called on New York Gov. 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.

On Sunday, Cuomo released a statement saying, "My heart breaks for the 20 people who lost their lives in this horrific accident on Saturday in Schoharie. I commend the first responders who arrived on the scene and 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."

(© 2018 1010 WINS. The Associated Press contributed to this report)