Witnesses said the limousine was probably driving almost 95km/h when it crashed [Twitter/SPECNewsAlbany]
Twenty people have been killed in a limousine crash in New York state, police confirmed on Sunday, with local media reporting that it slammed into a crowd of pedestrians at a country store.
Police said the accident occurred on Saturday afternoon, describing in a brief statement two cars colliding in Schoharie County, near the state capital, Albany.
An SUV-style stretch limousine sped down a hill, crashing into pedestrians outside the Apple Barrel Country Store and Cafe, the Albany Times Union said, citing police.
Pictures posted on Twitter by Jesse McKinley, the Albany bureau chief for the New York Times, showed a hairbrush and a fragment of tail light in the grass at the side of the road, near deep muddy tracks that disappeared into woodland beyond.
Apple Barrel manager Jessica Kirby said customers in the car park were killed when they were hit by the limousine as it careened down the hill, the Times reported.
“All fatal. That limo was coming down that hill probably over 60 mph (97 km/h) … I don’t want to describe the scene. It’s not something I want to think about,” she was quoted as saying.
— Mercedes Williams (@MercedesTVnews) October 6, 2018
The Columbus Day weekend is the busiest of the year for the store, Kirby told the paper, noting that it was full of customers from New York City, New Jersey and Albany at the time of the crash.
‘I heard some screaming’
A witness named by local media as Bill Waterson said the limousine was carrying a party on their way to a wedding reception.
“This is terrible, terrible, terrible,” he told the Times Union.
The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed on Twitter that a limo was involved and said it was sending investigators to the scene.
Witnesses told local NBC affiliate WNYT that the limousine was carrying “a group” of people, while other media reports described as many as 18 passengers in the vehicle.
“I heard some screaming. It looked serious because people were running back and forth,” a witness identified as Bridey Finegan told the station.
Road accidents are the fourth leading cause of injury-related deaths in New York state, according to federal health statistics.
In 2014, the latest year with available figures, crashes on the state’s highways resulted in $808m in hospital and emergency department charges, the Department of Health said on its website.
The store, a popular stop for tourists viewing fall foliage in the area, posted a message on its Facebook page lamenting the “horrific accident.”
It said it would be open for business on Sunday and “hope you will come and share your smiles, love, friendship and hugs with us.”