The site of a devastating accident that killed two pedestrians and 18 occupants of a limousine headed to a birthday party, including four sisters, is a known danger spot that has long worried locals, according to a manager of the store that sits at the intersection where the accident occurred. The intersection had been redone in 2008 because of a fatal accident there, said Jessica Kirby, managing director of the Apple Barrel Country Store and Cafe.
Since the reconstruction, three tractor-trailers have run through the same stop sign authorities said the limo drove through without stopping, and into a field behind her business, she said. Officials worked with the state to outlaw heavy trucks, but there are still accidents.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement in October saying he has “directed state agencies to provide every resource necessary to aid in this investigation and determine what led to this tragedy.”
Authorities didn’t say whether the limo occupants were wearing seatbelts or speculate the speed of the limo at the time of the crash.
Relatives said the limousine was carrying four sisters and their friends to a 30th birthday celebration for the youngest.
The 2001 Ford Excursion limousine was traveling southwest on Route 30 in Schoharie, about 170 miles (270 kilometers) north of New York City when it failed to stop at a T-junction with state Route 30A, state police said. It went across the road and hit an unoccupied SUV parked at the Apple Barrel Country Store and two pedestrians.
The crash appeared to be the deadliest land-vehicle accident in the U.S. since a bus carrying nursing home patients away from Hurricane Rita caught fire in Texas 2005, killing 23. It was the deadliest transportation accident overall since February 2009, when a plane crash near Buffalo, New York, killed 50 people, said Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the matter.
There were just 12 crashes involving large limos in the five years for which the agency has released statistics, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Twelve people were killed in limo crashes between 2012 and 2016. Over the same period, 171,508 people were killed in 157,451 crashes involving all types of vehicles.
Safety issues on over-sized limousines have arisen before, notably after a wreck on Long Island in July 2015 in which four women were killed. The limousine driver was trying to make a U-turn and was struck by a pickup, in that incident.
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.