A total of 20 people have died after a limousine crashed in Schoharie, New York, on Saturday, officials said.
"The investigation at the scene revealed a 2001 Ford Excursion limousine failed to stop at an intersection," Christopher Fiore, first deputy superintendent of the New York State Police, told reporters at a press conference on Sunday.
The limousine was traveling southwest on Route 30 in Schoharie, north of New York City and failed to stop at an intersection with State Route 30A, state police said. It went across the intersection and into the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store, where it struck an unoccupied vehicle and two pedestrians.
Both pedestrians and all 18 people in the limousine, including the driver, were killed in the accident.
It is the deadliest transportation accident in the US since a February 2009 plane crash near Buffalo, New York, that killed 50 people, Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said Sunday.
"Twenty fatalities is just horrific," Sumwalt told reporters.
"Yes, are open today. And could use your hugs. Donations are be accepted for our local emergency services," Apple Barrel Country Store wrote on its Facebook page Sunday. "We are doing our best to cope and grieve. We are a big family at the Apple Barrel, and part of the bigger family of Schoharie. We cope by being together. And that is why we are open."
Barbara Douglas, an aunt to four sisters who were killed inside of the limousine, told reporters the siblings were out celebrating the birthday of one of the passengers.
"They were very close to each other and they loved their family and their parents," Douglas told the Associated Press. "They did the responsible thing, getting a limo so they wouldn't have to drive anywhere."
"I had four nieces. They are all dead. They were in there," she told ABC News.
The names of the victims will not be released until after the autopsies has been completed and family members have been notified, state police said. Though previous reports stated the group was part of a wedding party, but relatives said the group was in fact on their way to the birthday celebration.
By Monday, relatives have begun identifying some of the victims of the crash.
According to the New York Times, the limousine was rented by Axel and Amy Steenburg, a newlywed couple celebrating the woman's 30th birthday.
Relatives told the Times that Amy Steenburg's sisters, Mary Dyson, Allison King, and Abby Jackson were also killed in the crash, as well as Axel Steenburg's brother Rich Steenburg.
Another newlywed couple, Erin and Shane McGowan were also killed in the crash, Rocco Semprivivo, Erin's stepfather, told the Times. According to Semprivivo, Erin McGowan's cousin, Patrick Cushing, was also in the vehicle.
"Our lives have been changed forever," Erin McGowan's aunt, Valerie Abeling, told ABC News.
According to the Daily Gazette, a local paper, the stretch of road along Route 30 leading to the intersection where the accident occurred "follows a long, steep incline." Local resident Richard Colyer told that after hearing sirens from his home, he thought the accident must have occurred at the intersection "because this is where most of the accidents do happen."
A team from the National Transportation Safety Board was at the scene to investigate the crash on Sunday morning.
In a statement Sunday night, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state agencies would “provide every resource necessary” to investigate the accident.
“My heart breaks for the 20 people who lost their lives in this horrific accident,” Cuomo said. “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 limousine in the accident was a Ford Excursion. Earlier versions of this post misidentified the model as an Exposition and an Expedition.