The Slatest

Victim Texted Concern About Limo Condition Moments Before Massive Crash Killed 20

Distraught family members take in the scene October 7, 2018 in Schoharie, New York, one day after an accident that left 20 people dead.
Distraught family members take in the scene October 7, 2018 in Schoharie, New York, one day after an accident that left 20 people dead.
LORI VAN BUREN/Getty Images

The limousine that crashed and killed 20 people in upstate New York over the weekend was not in the best shape. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the limo failed inspection last month and “was not supposed to be on the road.” On top of that, the driver “did not have the appropriate driver’s license to be operating that vehicle,” Cuomo said as investigators continued looking into the crash that took place Saturday afternoon in rural Schoharie. All 18 passengers in the limo, who were heading to a birthday party at a Cooperstown brewery, were killed in the crash as were two pedestrians.

A friend told the New York Times that she got a text message from one of the victims, Erin McGowan, explaining that a bus they had rented to take the friends to the brewery broke down and they got a stretch limousine instead. The limo was in bad condition, though, McGowan told her friend. “The motor is making everyone deaf,” McGowan wrote.

It’s still unclear what led the limo to blow through a stop sign, crash into a parked SUV and cause the massive accident. “Twenty fatalities is just horrific,” National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said Sunday. “This is the most deadly transportation accident in this country since February of 2009.”

The small company that rented out the limo, Prestige Limousine based out of Gansevoort, New York, doesn’t exactly have the best safety record. Federal records show that four of its vehicles have failed inspections and been pulled off the road. “In my opinion, the owner of this company had no business putting a failed vehicle on the road,” Cuomo said at a Columbus Day Parade in New York City. “Prestige has a lot of questions to answer.”

Investigators will be carrying out autopsies of the victims, which included four sisters and several young couples. They were going to the brewery to celebrate the 30th birthday for the youngest of the four sisters. “They did the responsible thing getting a limo so they wouldn’t have to drive anywhere,” their aunt, 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.”