Fu­neral Mass held for 8 of 20 limo crash vic­tims

Boston Herald - - FUNERAL DIRECTORS -

AM­S­TER­DAM, N.Y. — Mourn­ers at a fu­neral for four sis­ters and their fam­ily mem­bers killed in a New York limou­sine crash were as­sured yes­ter­day that their loved ones can still see their tears and feel their heartache.

On a damp, chilly day, hun­dreds of peo­ple packed the pews of an old brick church in Am­s­ter­dam at the Mass for eight of the 20 peo­ple killed Oct. 6 when the limou­sine they hired for a 30th birth­day cel­e­bra­tion crashed. The stretch limo bar­reled down a hill past a stop sign into an­other ve­hi­cle in the park­ing lot. All 17 pas­sen­gers and the driver were killed, as well as two pedes­tri­ans stand­ing in the park­ing lot.

“The ques­tion that is in the hearts of so many is: Why?” the Rev. O. Robert DeMar­ti­nis told hun­dreds of mourn­ers. “Why did th­ese 20 in­di­vid­u­als have to be taken from us so quickly and so un­ex­pect­edly?”

DeMar­ti­nis spoke on an al­tar flanked by pic­tures of Al­li­son King; sis­ter Abi­gail Jack­son and her hus­band, Adam Jack­son; sis­ter Mary Dyson and her hus­band, Robert Dyson; sis­ter Amy Steen­burg and her hus­band Axel Steen­burg, and his older brother, Richard Steen­burg.

Urns con­tain­ing their re­mains were placed be­neath the pic­tures, with each of the three mar­ried cou­ples shar­ing urns. Five teddy bears lay by the urns, one for each young child who lost a par­ent.

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 were able to cel­e­brate Amy’s 30th birth­day, but in their af­ter­life. He told mourn­ers to take so­lace in their eter­nal life.

DeMar­ti­nis mar­ried Amy and Axel Steen­burg in June. He re­called them as a laugh­ter-lov­ing cou­ple who made a sign ask­ing wed­ding guests not to take pic­tures, be­cause “we sug­gest that you live in the mo­ment.”

He had won­dered why they never picked up the sign. Now, he said, he knew.

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

The sis­ters grew up in Am­s­ter­dam, a small up­state New York city, and many of the vic­tims have deep ties to the area. The city has been stricken with grief amid a se­ries of fu­ner­als.

Mean­while, 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.

Thou­sands came to­gether for a can­dle­light rally by the Mo­hawk River on Mon­day night, and thou­sands more at­tended call­ing hours Fri­day evening for the sis­ters and their fam­ily mem­bers.

“What good can come from this tragedy?” DeMar­ti­nis asked the packed church as he spread his arms wide. “Take a look — thou­sands and thou­sands of peo­ple.”

AP PHOTO

MOURN­ING: Friends and fam­ily at­tend a fu­neral Mass St. Stanis­laus Ro­man Catholic Church in Am­s­ter­dam, N.Y., yes­ter­day for eight of the 20 peo­ple killed in a limou­sine crash in Schoharie, N.Y., Oct. 6.

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