LATHAM, N.Y.—Twenty people were killed when a limousine blew through a stop sign, hitting two pedestrians and a parked car near a popular roadside tourist destination outside of Albany, N.Y., in the most deadly U.S. transportation accident in nine years.
All of the 17 passengers as well as the driver of the 2001 Ford Excursion limousine were killed, and two pedestrians who were hit also died, State Police said Sunday. A National Transportation Safety Board team arrived Sunday morning to investigate the accident.
“Twenty fatalities is just horrific,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said. “This is the most deadly transportation accident in this country since 2009.”
Mr. Sumwalt was referring to the 2009 crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 outside Buffalo, which killed 50 people. Earlier this year, 17 people were killed when a tour boat capsized in Missouri during a sudden storm.
State Police First Deputy Superintendent Christopher Fiore on Sunday declined to give details about the victims’ identities until autopsies were completed and relatives had been notified. At a news conference in the Albany suburb of Latham, he said the victims were all adults.
He also declined to comment on whether the vehicle was speeding or if the passengers were wearing seat belts. Mr. Fiore said state law requires a limousine’s driver and front-seat passengers to wear seat belts, but not passengers seated in the rear.
The limousine passed through the stop sign at the intersection of two state roads around 1:55 p.m. Saturday, then crashed into an unoccupied Toyota Highlander in the parking lot of Apple Barrel Country Store and Cafe in Schoharie, about 30 miles west of Albany.
Emergency personnel responding to the scene of a deadly crash in Schoharie, N.Y. on Saturday. Photo: WTEN /Associated Press
Schoharie County Sheriff Ron Stevens said the intersection had been recently redesigned but “there have been accidents there” in the past. The limousine was traveling downhill on Route 30, where the posted speed limit is 50 miles an hour, before it reached the intersection.
Jessica Loden Kirby, managing director at the Apple Barrel, said customers in the parking lot were among the casualties in the accident. “The only thing I would say is that I heard from witnesses the limo was going 60” miles an hour, Ms. Kirby said in an email.
The Apple Barrel store said in a Facebook post on Sunday that it was open and would be collecting funds for local emergency services. “And could use your hugs.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave condolences to families of the victims, commended first responders and said he had directed state agencies “to aid in this investigation and determine what led to this tragedy.”
The NTSB has investigated several limo accidents in the past and found that some passengers injured and killed did not wear seat belts and did not have properly adjusted headrests.
Members of the National Transportation Safety Board view the scene of the fatal crash, in Schoharie, N.Y. Photo: Hans Pennink/Associated Press
In 2014, a semi-trailer operated by Walmart struck a limo van on the New Jersey Turnpike near Cranbury, N.J., forcing it to collide with another truck, and roll onto its side. One limo passenger was killed and the other four passengers, one of whom was the comedian Tracy Morgan, were seriously injured.
In its report, the NTSB blamed excessive fatigue by the Walmart driver, but said that passengers in the limo were not wearing seat belts. It called on companies that modify limos to post limits on the number of passengers and the amount of luggage permitted aboard.
Following a July 2015 collision outside a winery on Long Island that killed four of the eight passengers riding in a limousine, the NTSB said it had agreed to put a focus on limousine accidents, and investigate them on a case-by-case basis. In that crash, the driver of the pickup truck that struck the limo later pleaded guilty to driving while impaired.