20 People Killed in Deadliest US Transportation Accident in 9 Years

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
Transportation Accident

Schoharie, New York - 17 friends recently gathered together to enjoy a birthday party and started their celebration by heading to an upstate New York brewery. The ride to the brewery in a white limousine was supposed to be an enjoyable ride; however, it quickly turned deadly. After careening through an intersection that is notorious for being dangerous, the limousine driver lost control and slammed into an empty vehicle while also striking two pedestrians. All 17 passengers, the two pedestrians, and the driver of the limousine died from the crash.

According to numerous news sources, most passengers in the limousine were couples, some of whom had recently been married. The limo was a 2001 Ford Excursion and was traveling southwest on State Route 30. Once it arrived at the State Route 30 A intersection, it failed to stop and then collided with the empty SUV (a 2015 Toyota Highlander) that was parked in a nearby parking lot. The accident took place shortly before 2 p.m. on October 6, 2018.

The reason all the friends and couples had gathered together was to celebrate the 30th birthday of a dear friend. This friend had three sisters who were all present and killed during the crash along with their spouses. It's a horrible tragedy, and no words can describe the grief that all impacted friends and family members are experiencing.

There were several witnesses of the crash. Bridey Finnagen, a nearby resident of the accident, said, "I heard a long bang, [and] I came out my front door to see what was going on. 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 wrecked, hit a tree. The first responders broke some windows [on the vehicles] to try to get people out. I believe the Jaws of Life were here on the side of one of the fire trucks."

The speed limit through the intersection is 50 mph. According to Jessica Kirby, a manager at the nearby Apple Barrel Country Store, she saw the "limo coming down that hill probably over 60 miles per hour." She goes on to say, "I don't want to describe the scene. It's not something I want to think about."

Our hearts go out to the friends and family of those impacted by the deadliest accident in the United States in the past nine years.

The cause of the accident remains unsolved. The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) has ordered a team to investigate and reconstruct the accidents to find out what could have caused the crash.

Also, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated that his administration would “provide every resource necessary” for a full inquiry.

"My heart breaks for the 20 people who lost their lives in this horrific accident on Saturday in Schoharie," Governor 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."

The New York State police stated that the 20 deaths were adults which include two couples recently newlywed.

An aunt of one of the victims, Valerie Abeling, stated that newlyweds Erin Vertucci and Shane McGowan were in the accident. Earlier this year they were married overseas.

"Our lives have been changed forever," expressed Abeling.

A resident of Rochester, Lester Andrews, acknowledged that his stepsons Rich Steenburg, 34, and Axel Steenburg, 29, and Axel's wife Amy also died in the accident.

The Lives of 20 Limo Crash Victims

Savannah D. Bursese 24
Rachel K. Cavosie 30
Matthew W. Coons 27
Robert J. Dyson 34
Patrick K. Cushing 31
Amanda D. Halse 26
Brian Hough 46
Abigail M. Jackson 34
Adam Jackson 34
Allison King 31
Scott T. Lisinicchia 53
Erin R. McGowan 34
Shane T. McGowan 30
Amanda Rivenburg 29
James Schnurr 70
Richard M. Steenburg 34
Axel J. Steenburg 29
Amy L. Steenburg 29
Michael C. Ukaj 34

Limousine Safety

The safety of limousines has long been touted. Back in 2015, federal officials worked to investigate together limousine accidents, particularly those involving stretch limousines. During the manufacturing of stretch limos, there are few if any safety standards used to guide the modifications. Some limos have multiple steel reinforcement bars whereas others may have only one. Contacting a New York auto accident attorney is highly recommended to those who have been involved in a limo crash or have lost a loved one in a limo accident.

As part of the federal investigation on limo crashes, Tracy Morgan's accident was reviewed. It was discovered a single piece of plywood was added to separate the cab and the passengers. This modification traps passengers and makes it extremely difficult for first responders to get injured individuals out. This finding led to the recommendation of making sure limo vans were modified to have multiple passenger exits.

There's no doubt that something needs to be done. Jennifer Flynn, the mother to Katie, a 7-year-old girl who was killed during a limo crash, spoke of holding her daughter after the crash had occurred. The intoxicated driver who caused the accident was convicted of murder and given a sentence of 25 years to life. Had safety modifications been applied to the limo, perhaps Katie would still be alive today.

New York car accident death is a serious concern. If a car accident has impacted you or a loved one, you deserve justice for the damages and emotional trauma that you've suffered. The attorneys at Raphaelson & Levine offer compassionate and knowledgeable representation for car accident victims. To learn more about motor vehicle accident results and the benefits of hiring an NYC car accident lawyer or to receive a free legal consultation, please call at 212-268-3222.

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
Howard A. Raphaelson founded Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, P.C. in 1992 after graduating from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, NY. With over thirty years of experience as a personal injury lawyer, he has earned a trusted reputation from his peers, judges, and top leaders, including recognition among the top 5% injury attorneys as a “Super Lawyer” (Thomson Reuters) and “New York’s Best Lawyers” (New York Magazine).

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