SCHOHARIE, N.Y. — It was an intersection of two highways, one a steep downhill road, that residents had long warned was notoriously dangerous.
On Saturday afternoon, their worst fears were realized: A limousine lost control, careening through the intersection and striking an empty car. The crash killed all 18 people in the white limousine and two pedestrians in an accident that left deep tire tracks in the ground and a small upstate New York town reeling.
“That limo was coming down that hill probably over 60 miles per hour,” said Jessica Kirby, 36, the manager of the Apple Barrel Country Store, where she said customers were hit near the parking lot. “All fatal.”
“I don’t want to describe the scene,” she added. “It’s not something I want to think about.”
Federal investigators arrived on Sunday in Schoharie, N.Y., about 40 miles west of Albany, where the crash had occurred and its remnants were still visible, including a tire torn from the limousine that lay in the mud in the creek bed, below several trees that had presumably been sawed off to access the vehicle. What appeared to be debris from the car littered the scene: mirror fragments, taillight pieces, a hairbrush.
The 2001 Ford Excursion limousine barreled through the intersection of two highways without stopping, crashing into another vehicle, an unoccupied 2015 Toyota Highlander, before landing in a ravine beyond the road. The two pedestrians were struck near the Apple Barrel and killed.
The loss of life stunned even seasoned investigators, who called it the nation’s deadliest transportation accident since a 2009 plane crash near Buffalo, N.Y., killed 50 people.
“Twenty fatalities is just horrific,” said Robert L. Sumwalt, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is launching a comprehensive investigation. “I’ve been on the board for 12 years and this is one of the biggest losses of life that we’ve seen in a long, long time.”
All those killed were adults, the State Police said. They included at least two pairs of newlyweds and parents of young children, including a 16-month old, as family and friends quickly created a Go Fund Me page to cover future expenses.
SOURCE: Jesse McKinley, Shane Goldmacher, and Luis Ferré-Sadurní
The New York Times