Mourn­ers pack fu­neral for 8 of 20 killed in N.Y. limou­sine crash

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - NATION - BY MICHAEL HILL

AM­S­TER­DAM, N.Y. — Hun­dreds of mourn­ers packed an up­state New York church Satur­day for the fu­neral of four sis­ters and four other fam­ily mem­bers who died in a limou­sine crash last week­end that killed a to­tal of 20 peo­ple.

The Rev. O. Robert DeMar­ti­nis as­sured mourn­ers at the St. Stanis­laus Ro­man Catholic Church in Am­s­ter­dam, New York, that their loved ones can still see their tears, feel their heartache and want them to live in the mo­ment.

Re­fer­ring to the cat­a­strophic ac­ci­dent last Satur­day that turned a birth­day cel­e­bra­tion into tragedy, “the ques­tion that is in the hearts of so many is why,” the priest said. “Why did th­ese 20 in­di­vid­u­als have to be taken from us so quickly and so un­ex­pect­edly?”

Among them were Amy Steen­burg and her hus­band, Axel Steen­burg, whom DeMar­ti­nis had mar­ried in June.

One item from their wed­ding was brought to the fu­neral: a sign the cou­ple made ask­ing wed­ding guests not to take pic­tures, be­cause “we sug­gest that you live in the mo­ment.”

The priest held up the sign for about 500 mourn­ers in the pews to see.

“That’s what they’re ask­ing me to ask you to do to­day,” DeMar­ti­nis said.

Urns that rested by the al­tar held the re­mains of Amy Steen­burg and her hus­band, and his brother, Richard Steen­burg; Amy’s sis­ter Abi­gail Jack­son and her hus­band Adam Jack­son; sis­ter Mary Dyson and her hus­band Robert Dyson; and the fourth sis­ter, Al­li­son King.

Each of the three mar­ried cou­ples shared an urn, placed near pho­tographs of the eight crash vic­tims. Sur­round­ing the urns were five teddy bears — one for each young child who lost a par­ent.

On a chilly, damp day, mourn­ers had lined up for hours out­side the old, red brick church to be able to get into the ser­vice in Am­s­ter­dam, where many of the 20 vic­tims grew up and stilled lived. Half an hour away in Schoharie is the coun­try store where the stretch limo crashed af­ter bar­rel­ing down a hill past a stop sign into an­other ve­hi­cle in the park­ing lot. All 18 pas­sen­gers were killed, as well as two pedes­tri­ans stand­ing in the park­ing lot of the store.

A week ago, the group — most of them in their 30s — was headed to a birth­day party for Amy Steen­burg at a lo­cal brew­ery in Coop­er­stown.

DeMar­ti­nis said he be­lieves Amy and her friends still are cel­e­brat­ing her 30th birth­day, “with God.”

Au­thor­i­ties con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate the cause of the crash while pros­e­cu­tors have charged the op­er­a­tor of the limo com­pany, Nau­man Hus­sain, with crim­i­nally neg­li­gent homi­cide, say­ing he al­lowed an im­prop­erly li­censed driver to op­er­ate an “un­ser­vice­able” ve­hi­cle.

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