20 killed after ‘birthday party’ limousine crashes in New York state

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Twenty people have been killed after a limousine taking people to a birthday party went past a stop sign at the end of a New York state highway and ploughed into a parked car.

All 18 people in the limo and two pedestrians died in the deadliest road accident in the United States in almost a decade, officials said.

Valerie Abeling, the aunt of one of the victims, said the vehicle was on its way to a birthday celebration, and newlyweds Erin Vertucci and Shane McGowan were among those killed.

She said her daughter had been invited along but was unable to go and that “our lives have been changed forever”.

The collision turned a relaxed Saturday afternoon into chaos at an upstate New York spot popular with tourists taking in the autumn foliage.

The 2001 Ford Excursion limousine was travelling south west on Route 30 in Schoharie, about 170 miles north of New York City at around 2pm when it failed to stop at a T-junction, police said.

The crash “sounded like an explosion,” said Linda Riley, of nearby Schenectady, who was on a shopping trip with her sisters and had been in their parked car at the time at the store.

When she got out of her vehicle, she saw a body on the ground and broken tree branches everywhere, she said.

The store manager, Jessica Kirby, told The New York Times that the limo was coming down a hill at “probably over 60mph”.

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

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating, said chairman Robert Sumwalt.

“This is one of the biggest losses of life that we’ve seen in a long, long time,” he said, the deadliest since February 2009 when Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed in Buffalo, New York, killing 50 people.

Limousine Crash
The scene of the deadly crash in Schoharie (WTEN via AP)

“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.”

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