SCHOHARIE, N.Y. —
Erin and Shane McGowan were just starting their life together after five months of marriage when they climbed into a limousine to celebrate their friend Amy Steenburg’s 30th birthday.
The ride ended in the nation’s deadliest transportation disaster since 2009, killing the McGowans and 18 others when the limousine crashed into the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store in Schoharie, a town about 40 miles west of Albany, on Saturday afternoon.
“They just decided to rent a limousine and have fun and not worry about everything,” Erin’s uncle Anthony Vertucci told the Times Union Sunday.
“My whole entire family is in complete and utter shock. It’s hard and so tragic,” said Vertucci, who lives in Saratoga Springs, New York. “We’re just talking layers of tragedy. There are so many families affected by this.”
Vertucci said the 17 passengers in the limousine included Steenburg, who was celebrating her birthday, Amy’s husband Axel, Axel’s brother Rich, Amy’s three sisters and one of her brothers-in-law. The group of young adults grew up together and all lived in Amsterdam, New York. Two of the couples were newlyweds.
Authorities were still notifying the families of victims Sunday and declined to release the victims’ names, said New York State Police First Deputy Superintendent Chris Fiore, CNN reported.
He said authorities couldn’t answer several questions at this point, such as if the limo’s occupants were wearing seat belts, whether the vehicle’s brakes were working or whether the driver was speeding. The speed limit at the intersection where the accident occurred is 50 mph.
Vertucci said Erin McGowan was one of three daughters and worked in record-keeping at a hospital in Amsterdam. Erin and Shane, who had been a couple for at least three years and got married in June, were just starting their lives together.
“You’re always hoping you find the love of your life, it’s what you hope and wish and dream for, and they found each other. They were just so beautiful and vibrant and kind. They made such a dynamic duo,” Vertucci said. “They were finally able to get married and just honestly starting to live their life. They had big plans. They were saving for a house and hoping to do everything that everybody hopes to do.”
Two other victims, Amy and Axel Steenburg, also were just married in June. Axel and his brother Rich Steenburg, also killed in the limousine, both worked at GlobalFoundries and have a GoFundMe page.
Three of Amy’s sisters and one of her brothers-in-law died as well. Amy’ sister Abby Jackson and her husband Adam left behind two daughters, Archer, 4 years old, and Elle, 16 months old. A GoFundMe page titled “College and Expenses for Archer and Elle” shows pictures of the couple holding the two blonde, beaming girls. The page had raised more than $13,350 by Sunday evening.
Abby was a teacher in the Amsterdam School District.
The family of Amy Steenburg and Jackson declined to talk on Sunday.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the first responders who “worked through the night to help.”
“I join all New Yorkers in mourning these deaths and share in the unspeakable sorrow experienced by their families and loved ones during this extremely difficult time,” he said.
CNN contributed to this report.