4 sisters among limo crash’s victims
Year of celebration turns mournful in New York
The wedding page tells the story of a young man and woman who first became friends, then became a romantic pair, and then became a married couple. It is a common story, yet singular in its own way. Amy King and Axel Steenburg “sipped craft beers” and played pool on their first date in 2015, then boated with friends on their second — a day in which they spent “from sunrise to sunset” talking, according to an online wedding page, theknot.com. About three years later, on June 30 of this year, they married in a Catholic church in the tiny village of Hagaman, New York, about 18 miles northwest of Schenectady. Among the bridal party at Amy and Axel’s wedding were Amy’s sisters — Allison King, who was the maid of honor, and Mary Dyson and Abigail Jackson, who were bridesmaids. Nearly 100 days after the wedding, the four sisters were among the 20 people killed in the Saturday afternoon limousine crash in a rural area of Schoharie. They were together to celebrate Amy’s birthday. Axel Steenburg and his brother Rich Steenburg, the best man in the wedding, also died in the crash. Also killed was another couple married in June — Erin and Shane McGowan. All of the 17 passengers died, as did the driver and two pedestrians. To family and friends, the loss is both devastating and unimaginable. The days ahead will answer questions about whether the intersection where the crash occurred was particularly unsafe and the limousine driver and company particularly unreliable. Those questions and answers could avoid more tragedies and more deaths. But, for those who knew Amy and Axel Steenburg and the family members and friends killed Saturday, they will provide little in the way of consolation. Amy Steenburg, the newlywed and the youngest of the four sisters in the limousine, was celebrating her 30th birthday Saturday. Amy, her husband, her sisters, and the other friends who piled into the white 2001 Ford Expedition, which had been converted into a stretch limousine, were a decidedly close-knit group who often congregated for fun. “They were together multiple times a week, always hanging out,” Erin Flaherty, a friend of many of the victims, told The New York Times. Thus, it was characteristic that they would unite for the 30th birthday of Amy Steenburg — a milestone in a year of milestones. The group had planned a noon visit to Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, the quaint and historic central New York village best known as the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. There, they had a tour of Ommegang scheduled, to be followed by a tasting session. The reservation was made recently, and for a smaller group than the number in the limo, according to brewery spokeswoman Allison Capozza. But, she said, it’s not uncommon for a reservation number to be different than how many do show up. The delay may well have been caused by a change in plans. Valerie Abeling, an aunt of Erin McGowan, told The Washington Post the group was expecting a small bus. That bus apparently broke down, and the group instead got the stretch limousine, which was equipped with bench seats in the rear. “The driver didn’t have a proper license,” state police Maj. Robert Patnaude said at a news conference Monday. The limousine provider, Prestige Limousine of Gansevoort, New York, and the limousine itself “have been under scrutiny in the past,” Patnaude said. McGowan texted Abeling’s daughter and said that the conditions in the vehi- cle were terrible, Valerie Abeling told The Post. But the group settled into the limousine for the trip to Cooperstown. They never made it there. Now, what was to be a celebration has instead tragically morphed into plans for memorial services, remembrances, and drives to raise money for the children of some of those killed. The Saturday in June when the Steenburgs wed was unseasonably hot. Afterward, everyone headed to a reception at The Saratoga Winery in Saratoga Springs. “It was one of those days that was about 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity,” remembered Seth Berger, the winery’s manager. The winery brought out sprinklers, and the guests did not hesitate to indulge in the cooling pleasure — wedding attire, be damned. “We took pictures of Axel and Amy going through the sprinklers soaking wet,” Berger said. Berger still has the photos on his phone. He never imagined how much they would mean to him.
“It was one of those days that was about 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity.” Seth Berger, Saratoga Springs winery manager, describing Amy and Axel Steenburg’s wedding day
Thousands gather Monday at the Mohawk Gateway Bridge in Amsterdam, N.Y., for a candlelight vigil for the 20 people killed in Saturday’s crash.