Vic­tim’s text: Limo in ‘ter­ri­ble con­di­tion’

NY Gov. Cuomo says ve­hi­cle was un­fit for road

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - John Ba­con

One of the vic­tims of the up­state New York limou­sine crash that killed all 18 aboard had texted con­cerns about the “ter­ri­ble con­di­tion” of the limo less than 20 min­utes be­fore tragedy struck, her aunt says. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Mon­day that the limou­sine, owned by Pres­tige Limou­sine, didn’t have the nec­es­sary fed­eral cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to op­er­ate and failed a state in­spec­tion last month. The ve­hi­cle was “not sup­posed to be on the road,” he said. Au­thor­i­ties con­tin­ued to in­ves­ti­gate the crash on a wind­ing road in ru­ral

“These were friends just start­ing their lives, get­ting mar­ried, and this is how it ended ... It’s a tragic loss of beau­ti­ful souls.” Va­lerie Abel­ing, whose niece, Erin Mc­Gowan, and Erin’s hus­band, Shane, were among vic­tims

Schoharie, about 160 miles north of New York City. The limo was bound for a birth­day party at a Coop­er­stown brew­ery. Two pedes­tri­ans also were killed. Va­lerie Abel­ing said her niece, Erin Mc­Gowan, 34, and Erin’s hus­band, Shane, 30, were among the limo vic­tims. Abel­ing’s daugh­ter was busy and couldn’t join the party, a sched­ul­ing con­flict that prob­a­bly saved her life. Abel­ing told The Wash­ing­ton Post that Erin sent a text com­plain­ing about the con­di­tion of the limo, a last-minute re­place­ment af­ter a bus hired to shut­tle the group broke down. The Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board and State Po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing. NTSB Chair­man Robert Sumwalt said the limo’s road­wor­thi­ness was a fac­tor that will be stud­ied. Erin, who worked in a pe­di­a­tri­cian’s of­fice, and Shane, who worked for Mir­a­cle Ear, were mar­ried in June. “These were friends just start­ing their lives, get­ting mar­ried, and this is how it ended,” Abel­ing said. “It’s a tragic loss of beau­ti­ful souls.” Au­thor­i­ties had not re­vealed the names of vic­tims, pend­ing con­fir­ma­tion of iden­ti­fi­ca­tions and no­ti­fi­ca­tion of fam­ily mem­bers. Some of those fam­ily mem­bers shared their sto­ries. Many of the vic­tims were from Am­s­ter­dam, a city of less than 20,000 peo­ple 25 miles north of the crash site. State Assem­bly­man An­gelo Santabar­bara called the crash a “dev­as­tat­ing event im­pact­ing all parts of our com­mu­nity.” Four of those killed were sis­ters, three of whom died with their hus­bands. Axel and Amy Steen­burg, new­ly­weds from Am­s­ter­dam, had rented the limo, Axel Steen­burg’s step­fa­ther told The New York Times. The group had gath­ered to cel­e­brate Amy Steen­burg’s 30th birth­day. In a Face­book post three days be­fore the crash, Amy pro­fessed her love for Axel. “I just wanted to say Axel Steen­burg I love you more than words can say!” Amy wrote. “Thank you for be­ing so kind and lov­ing xo #just­be­cause #hus­band.” Amy’s sis­ter Abi­gail and hus­band Adam Jack­son, sis­ter Mary and hus­band Rob Dyson and sis­ter Al­li­son King also died, the women’s aunt said. “They did the re­spon­si­ble thing, get­ting a limo so they wouldn’t have to drive any­where,” Bar­bara Dou­glas said. “They were won­der­ful girls. They’d do any­thing for you, and they were very close to each other, and they loved their fam­ily.” An­drea Ho­john Orokos started a GoFundMe page for the fam­ily of Axel and his brother. “Satur­day, Rich, Axel and other friends and fam­ily passed in an un­for­tu­nate party bus ac­ci­dent,” she wrote. “It is beyond dev­as­tat­ing for ev­ery­one who knew them all. Please help ease the bur­den dur­ing this time and help do­nate to fu­neral ex­penses.” Amanda Halse, 26, and her boyfriend, Pa­trick Cush­ing, 31, also died in the limo, Halse’s sis­ter Ka­rina told “Good Morn­ing Amer­ica.” They had been dat­ing for about a year, she said. “She was such a charis­matic per­son, and she just wanted to make sure ev­ery­one was happy,” Ka­rina Halse said. Cush­ing, who worked in Al­bany at the state Se­nate’s tech­nol­ogy of­fice, was an “ex­tra­or­di­nary” em­ployee and “won­der­ful young man,” state Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader John Flana­gan said. Suzanne Dou­glass said her nephew, Matthew Coons, died. She said he had “a golden heart” and “made you laugh so hard un­til you cried.” State Po­lice First Deputy Su­per­in­ten­dent Christo­pher Fiore said the limo ran a stop sign and slammed into a parked SUV and the two pedes­tri­ans be­fore crash­ing to a halt in a ditch. Nei­ther Fiore nor Sumwalt would say how fast the limo was go­ing or whether those aboard wore seat belts. Sumwalt said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was a pri­or­ity and would be thor­ough.

RICKY FLORES AND PETER CARR/USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

This drone photo Mon­day shows the scene of Satur­day’s crash in Schoharie, N.Y.

HANS PEN­NINK/AP

De­bris is scat­tered Sun­day at the site of a fa­tal crash the day be­fore in Schoharie, N.Y.

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