PICTURED: Driver of stretch limo that plowed through a stop sign at 60mph and crashed, killing 20 people in birthday …
Scott Lisinicchia, 53, was driving the limo which crashed in upstate New York on Saturday, killing 20 including himself. Questions have been raised over the condition of his vehicle, though cops have not commented on the cause of the crash
This is the limo driver who was at the wheel when his stretch SUV plowed through a stop sign and crashed, killing 19 people and himself after his passengers texted relatives to say the vehicle was barely roadworthy.
Scott Lisinicchia, 53, was killed alongside a group of 17 relatives, friends and neighbors on their way to a surprise 30th birthday party when his limo ran out of control across a junction and into a ditch. Along the way it struck two pedestrians, who also died.
Among the dead were four sisters – Allison King, Abby Jackson, Mary Dyson, and Amy Steenburg, whose birthday they were celebrating.
The women’s aunt, Barbara Douglas, said the family are ‘overwrought’ at their deaths and that her brother, the girls’ father, ‘cannot wrap his head around’ the tragedy.
Questions are mounting over the cause of the accident, which happened in the town of Schoharie around 2pm on Saturday, and whether the condition of the limo was to blame.
The vehicle had been brought in as a replacement after a bus meant to transport the party broke down.
It belonged to Prestige Limousines and Lisinicchia was one of two drivers employed by the company.
In the last two years, it has had four vehicles taken out of service upon inspection, documents from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that were obtained by DailyMail.com on Monday reveal.
Twenty minutes before the crash, passenger Erin McGowan – who died alongside new husband Shane – texted aunt Valerie Abeling to say the limo was ‘in terrible condition’, the Washington Post reports.
Abeling said the group had rented ‘some kind of bus’ to take them to the party venue, but it had broken down. The same company then sent a limo to take the group the rest of the way.
Witnesses said the limo was traveling around 60mph when it blew through a stop sign at the bottom of a steep hill opposite a store, which is known to locals as an accident hotspot.
Trucks were banned from using the road in recent years after several lost control while coming down the steep gradient, the state Department of Transportation said.
Police say they will not comment on the cause of the accident until their investigation has been completed. The crash is the deadliest transport accident in America since 2009, when 50 people died in a plane crash.
Lisinicchia’s identity was confirmed at the scene by his twin brother Keith, and reported on Twitter.
Little else is known about Lisinicchia, who is believed to live in Lake George, around an hour’s drive from the town of Amsterdam, where the group he was carrying lived. His wife did not respond to DailyMail.com’s inquiries on Monday morning.
Crucially, it is not clear what company he was working for when the accident happened.
The vehicle had been rented by newlyweds Axel and Amy Steenberg, who were both killed. The group had been on their way to celebrate Amy’s 30th birthday.
Eighteen of those killed were riding in the limo and part of a group of relatives, friends and neighbors traveling to a surprise 30th birthday party. The vehicle was coming down a steep road at around 60mph, witnesses said, when it ran out of control, across a junction and ended up in a steep ditch
As it plowed across the junction the limo struck an empty Toyota Highlander along with two pedestrians, who died from their injuries, before leaving the road and heading into the ditch (pictured)
The accident happened around 2pm in Schoharie, upstate New York, at a junction at the bottom of a hill which is known locally as an accident hot spot. Witnesses inside the Apple Barrel CountryStore, which was packed with visitors at the time, said the vehicle was going around 60mph at the time of the crash
This is the view across the junction where the limo failed to stop. Transport chiefs said truck were banned from using the road in recent years after several failed to stop at the bottom of the incline. The ditch where the limo ended up is hidden behind bushes at the far side of the junction
Police have not identified any of the victims – who were instead named by loved ones on social media – and say they will not be commenting on the cause of the accident until their investigation is complete
Just days before the crash Amy had uploaded a post gushing about husband Axel, whom she married in June, to Facebook which read: ‘I love you more than words can say.’
Amy was one of four sisters who died in the accident, along with Mary Dyson, Allison King, and Abby Jackson. The group were celebrating Amy’s birthday when the crash happened.
Also killed were Adam Jackson and Robert Dyson, Abby and Mary’s husbands.
Rich Steenburg, Axel’s brother, was among the dead, along with Patrick Cushing, Erin’s cousin.
Matthew Coons and his girlfriend Savannah Devonne also died. Matthew had been a groomsman at Amy and Axel’s wedding in June. The sisters’ aunt Barbara Douglas said the family were devastated by their loss.
‘One just got married and that’s what this was: her new husband was giving her a surprise birthday party,’ she told the New York Post.
‘They did the responsible thing getting a limo so they wouldn’t be driving,’ Douglas added to NBC News.
She described all four sisters, who were aged 35 to 30, as ‘beautiful girls, full of life’ and said two were mothers.
‘They had their whole lives ahead of them,’ she said.
What we know so far
- Friends and family of Amy Steenburg were killed en route to celebrate her 30th birthday, Saturday in upstate New York when their 2001 Ford Excursion stretch limousine crashed
- Witnesses say they saw the vehicle doing 60mph shortly before it lost control and careened across the intersection of State Route 30 and State Route 30A, running a stop sign
- It shot into the parking lot of Apple Barrel County Store in Schoharie, where it hit a parked, unoccupied 2015 Toyota Highlander
- The Toyota was sent spinning into two pedestrians standing nearby who were struck and killed
- All 17 passengers, and the driver of the limo, were killed
- National Transportation Safety Board said it was the deadliest transportation accident in the US since a 2009 plane crash in Buffalo killed 50 people
- Victims include sisters Abigail Jackson, Mary Dyson, Allison King and Amy Steenburg, and their husbands Adam Jackson, Robert Dyson and Axel Steenburg
- Newlyweds Erin and Shane McGowan, Amy Steenburg’s brother-in-law, Rich Steenburg, and Matthew Coons, Savannah Devonne also died
- The driver is 53-year-old Scott Lisinicchia
A family ripped apart: Pictured are sisters Allison King (back row, second from left) Abby Jackson (front left), Amy Steenburg (front right) and Mary Dyson (back row, on the right of Allison) were all killed in the Saturday crash. The group were on their way to a surprise 30th birthday for Steenburg (front right)
Abby Jackson and her husband Adam are seen, left. Her sister Amy, whose birthday it was, is pictured right with her husband Axel (on the left) and his brother Rich (right). Rich was also killed in the crash
Robert Dyson and his wife Mary, the oldest sister, were among the victims of the crash. The pair had been married since 2009 and had a young son. Sister Allison King (right) also died
Newlyweds Erin and Shane McGowan (pictured together left and at their June wedding, right) were among the 20 people who were killed in a horrific limousine crash in upstate New York on Saturday. They got married in June, the same month as Amy and Axel
Matthew Coons, a US Army veteran, and his girlfriend Savannah Devonne also died in the tragic accident on Saturday. Coons had acted as a groomsman at Amy and Axel’s wedding. Patrick Cushing (right), Erin’s cousin, also died as did his girlfriend, Amanda Halse (seen together, right)
Douglas spoke of the family’s tragedy while visiting the scene of the wreck.
‘My brother (the sisters’ father) told me that when [the police] called him they didn’t know if the brakes went out or what, but they were all dead,’ she said.
‘My brother and his wife are just overwrought,’ she said. ‘I don’t know how to say it. Can’t wrap your head around such a tragedy where you have four of your daughters die.’
Matthew Coons, a US Army veteran, and his girlfriend Savannah Devonne also died in the accident.
A local official warned that the road had been an accidental black spot for years.
‘There have been tractor trailers that have come barreling down that hill and it was a miracle they didn’t kill somebody,’ Schoharie Town Supervisor Alan Tavenner told the Albany Times Union.
The manager of the country store where the crash happened said they had been begging officials to do something to reduce the danger for years.
‘[There have been] more accidents than I can count. We have been asking for something to be done for years,’ Jessica Kirby, the store’s manager, said.
The limo was driving at 60mph, 10mph over the 50 limit.
The state Department of Transportation did make improvements seven years ago but locals say it did little to improve the safety.
‘If I was the apple barrel owners I would be demanding some sort of barriers to protect my business and customers,’ Barb Bender wrote on the Schoharie Co. Fire Wire Facebook page.
New York State Police said the 2001 Ford Excursion limousine was travelling south on State Route 30 when it failed to stop at the intersection with State Route 30A around 1.55pm on Saturday.
It traveled across the intersection and into the parking lot for the popular Apple Barrel County Store in Schoharie, where it hit a parked 2015 Toyota Highlander that was unoccupied.
Two pedestrians standing nearby were struck and killed.
Anthony Vertucci, Erin’s uncle, spoke of the ‘darkness and devastation’ that had hit his family and shared photos of his daughter’s wedding day in a heartbreaking tribute.
‘My heart has stopped,’ he wrote. ‘Unspeakable tragedy that I can’t comprehend and will never come to terms with.’
‘I just wanted all of you to see pictures of Erin and Shane, these two beautiful and amazing people, on the best and happiest days of their lives.
Lauren Lemos, a cousin of four of the victims, couldn’t hold back tears as she told Spectrum News that they were: ‘Wonderful people.’
‘They are just wonderful, kind, loving…’ she said. ‘You couldn’t have met better people than they were.
‘They were all very active parents and involved in their children’s lives.’
Susan Minicki McGowan, Shane’s mother, also shared a photo and tribute to her son and daughter-in-law.
‘Our family will never the same after the tragic deaths of our son Shane and daughter Erin,’ she wrote.
A GoFundMe campaign was launched for Archer and Elle after they lost both parents in the crash.
‘Adam and Abby were amazing parents to these girls and taken much too soon,’ the description reads.
‘While families will step in and provide loving care for these girls, there will be expenses that we can help with during this time when we otherwise feel so helpless.’
Lester Andrews, stepfather to Axel and Rich Steenburg, said Axel and Amy – who only tied the knot this summer – rented the limo.
Two vehicles were involved in the crash, which occurred just before 2pm at the intersection of State Route 30 and State Route 30A on Saturday
The SUV-style stretch limousine traveled across the intersection and into the parking lot for the popular Apple Barrel County Store in Schoharie, where it hit a parked 2015 Toyota Highlander that was unoccupied
Local officials said the limo was speeding down a hill and crashed into bystanders in front of the popular Apple Barrel County Store (pictured) in Schoharie
Debris from the crash could be seen scattered at the site of the horrific accident on Sunday afternoon, including a tire from one of the vehicles
DANGERS OF STRETCH LIMOS
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating today’s tragic crash but it’s not the first time officials have probed the luxury vehicles over their safety record.
Police investigated in 2015 after a wreck on Long Island in which four women on a winery tour were killed. The Lincoln Town Car that had been cut apart and rebuilt to create a stretch limo that could take more passengers.
The limo was making a U-turn when it was hit by a pickup truck. A court later heard evidence that converted stretch limos often lacked basic safety measures such as side-impact air bags, reinforced rollover protection bars and accessible emergency exits, because of the process of cutting and rebuilding.
The jury in the case later called on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to crack down on rebuilt limos – which are banned in many European countries.
When limousines are built in factories they must meet tough safety guidelines.
But when they are built by slicing two cars together, there is little safety oversight, leading to concerns that there is a dangerous loophole in the law.
The authorities have not confirmed that the limo in Sunday’s crash was rebuilt, but records show that model car does not appear to be a limousine, suggesting it had been rebuilt .
On Sunday, Cuomo released a statement: ‘My heart breaks for the 20 people who lost their lives in this horrific accident on Saturday in Schoharie. I commend the first responders who arrived on the scene and worked through the night to help.
‘State police are working with federal and local authorities to investigate the crash, and I have directed state agencies to provide every resource necessary to aid in this investigation and determine what led to this tragedy.’
When Andres went to pick up Axel’s dog on Saturday night, he saw dozens of cars parked in front of his stepson’s house.
He said investigators used the license plate to help identify victims who were in the limousine.
Initial reports claimed the limousine was traveling to a wedding, but family members of the victims have since said that’s not the case.
Andrews said he did not know why the group rented the limousine, and a sister-in-law of one of the victims said it had nothing to do with a wedding.
Valerie Abeling, the aunt of one of the victims, said the limo was on its way to a birthday celebration.
Erin Flaherty was friends with a number of the victims, who she said were ‘together multiple times a week’ and ‘always hanging out’.
Bridey Finnegan, who lives near the crash site, said she heard a ‘loud bang’ when the two vehicles collided in front of Apple Barrel, a store popular with tourists.
‘I heard a loud bang, I came out my front door to see what was going on,’ she told WTEN.
‘I saw a lot of people here at the Apple Barrel out in the parking lot. Then I heard screaming.’
‘Then I saw this large van, a very unusual looking vehicle out here in Schoharie in the bushes and really wrecked, hit a tree.’
Finnegan said she watched as first responders broke windows to try and rescue people inside.
And witnesses said several bodies could be seen on the ground outside the store.
Jessica Kirby, the manager of Apple Barrel, said the limo was ‘coming down that hill probably over 60 miles per hour’.
‘I don’t want to describe the scene. It’s not something I want to think about,’ she told the New York Times.
The Schoharie County Sheriff’s Office, New York State Police, and emergency crews from the Red Cross all responded to the scene.
Six ambulances, three fire companies, and two helicopters were at the accident site, according to the Albany Times Union.
Witnesses also saw people running out of the Apple Barrel cafe to try and help after the accident.
Two women broke into tears as they placed flowers at the scene of the horrific accident on Sunday afternoon
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was the deadliest transportation accident in the US since a 2009 plane crash in Buffalo, New York, killed 50 people