Photo: Anthony Vertucci
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’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 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 on Sunday.
Photo: Joyce Bassett / Times Union
Schoharie is off Exit 23 of I-88, about 23 miles from I-90.
“My whole entire family is in complete and utter shock. It’s hard and so tragic,” said Vertucci, who lives in Saratoga Springs. “We’re just talking layers of tragedy. There are so many families affected by this.”
Vertucci said the 17 passengers in the limousine included Amy Steenburg, who was celebrating her 30th 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. Two of the couples were newlyweds.
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 district set up a space for grief counseling at Lynch Literacy Academy, 55 Brandt Pl., for families of victims to come for support from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday.
The family of Amy Steenburg and Abby Jackson declined to talk on Sunday.
State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara said there will be a vigil for the victims in Amsterdam Monday night at the southern end of the bridge in the city’s downtown. The gathering starts at 6:30 p.m.