AP NEWS

A look at limo crash victims: Veteran died on 34th birthday

October 9, 2018
1 of 5

In this June 8, 2018 photo provided by Valerie Lynne Abeling, Erin and Shane McGowan attend their wedding reception in Amsterdam, N.Y. The couple were among the 20 people who died in Saturday's limousine crash in Schoharie, N.Y. "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," Erin McGowan's uncle Anthony Vertucci said. "They had big plans." (Valerie Lynne Abeling via AP)

SCHOHARIE, N.Y. (AP) — A professor of geology. A pair of newlyweds. A former Marine who served in Iraq. Four sisters celebrating the birthday of one of their own. They are among the 20 people who died in Saturday’s limousine crash in upstate New York. The group included four sisters, two brothers and several longtime friends. Also killed were the limo driver and two pedestrians.

A look at the victims:

AMY AND AXEL STEENBURG

The limousine that crashed Saturday was headed to a brewery in Cooperstown, New York, to celebrate Amy Steenburg’s 30th birthday. Amy and Axel, 29, had been married in June and traveled extensively in recent months, according to their Facebook pages.

Amy, a nurse, was one of the four sisters killed the crash.

The couple lived in Amsterdam with their dog.

In her final Facebook post, Amy wrote that she loved her husband “more than words can say.”

“You are such an amazing man and entertain all my crazy ideas,” she wrote. “Even when I move a couch just to move it back to the original place.”

RICH STEENBURG

Steenburg, 34, of Johnstown, died along with his brother, Axel.

He worked for GlobalFoundries, a semiconductor and manufacturing company.

The New York Times reported that he was survived by a 10-year-old daughter and 14-year-old stepson.

“The entire GF community is extremely saddened by this incident and we are working closely with the families to provide comprehensive support,” Laura Kelly, the company’s vice president of global communications, said in a statement.

MATTHEW COONS AND SAVANNAH DEVONNE BURSESE

Coons, of Johnstown, was a weightlifting aficionado described by relatives as a gentleman with a dry wit.

“He had a huge heart, a golden heart,” said his aunt, Suzanne Douglass. “He made you laugh so hard until you cried.”

Coons, 27, lived with Devonne Bursese, his 24-year-old girlfriend, and a sister who has two daughters, his nieces.

“He will be sorely missed by his sister and her children,” Douglass said. “He made their life very joyful with his very sweet disposition. He also financially supported the household and was also a father figure to his much younger brother.”

AMANDA HALSE AND PATRICK CUSHING

Halse, 26, a waitress in Watervliet, was in the limousine with Cushing, her boyfriend, who worked in the technology office of New York’s Senate.

Senate Leader John Flanagan described Cushing Monday as an “extraordinary” employee and “wonderful young man.”

Known as “Cush,” Cushing, 31, also played for Team USA Dodgeball. “Cushing’s unconditional kindness and ability to make friends of his fiercest competitors made him the consummate sportsman all dodgeballers strive to be,” his team wrote in a Facebook post.

Halse’s sister, Karina, who visited the crash site Monday, said Cushing and Halse, who both lived in Halfmoon, were like “two peas in a pod.”

“My sister was a very strong and independent person,” Karina Halse said. “She didn’t like it when other people did things for her. She would be the one to initiate things.”

“I feel like my heart is sunken. It’s in a place where I’ve never felt this type of pain before,” Karina Halse said. The sisters had been texting on Saturday as Amanda Halse got into the limo to head to the birthday party. Before Amanda Halse received her sister’s reply, she died in the crash.

MARY AND ROB DYSON

Mary Dyson, 33, died in Saturday’s crash along with her husband, Rob, 34. She was one of the four sisters killed.

The Dysons lived in Watertown, New York, where Mary worked as an engineer and a coach at Star Spangled Crossfit, which dedicated a workout to her on Monday.

An Army veteran, Mary Dyson worked for Upstate Construction Services and was vice president of Theta Phi Alpha sorority when she was a student at Clarkson University, according to WWNY-TV.

ABIGAIL AND ADAM JACKSON

The Jacksons left behind two daughters, Archer and Elle, ages 4 and 1. Abby Jackson, as the 34-year-old was known, worked as a teacher in the Greater Amsterdam School District, said her aunt, Barbara Douglas, of Dannemora.

She became a teacher because she loved working with children, Rich Peters, president of the Amsterdam Teachers Association, told the Times Union. “She wanted to help them better their lives,” he said.

Adam Jackson, also 34, worked as a deputy commissioner at the Montgomery County Board of Elections, according to his Facebook page. Abigail was among the four sisters killed.

ALLISON KING

King, 31, of Ballston Spa, was killed in the crash along with her three sisters. A Facebook fundraiser created for her parents, Tom and Linda King, had raised more than $132,000 as of Monday evening.

ERIN AND SHANE MCGOWAN

Erin, 34, and Shane, 30, were married in June in upstate New York. Erin McGowan worked as an administrative assistant at St. Mary’s Healthcare in Amsterdam.

She had been thinking of going back to school to become a billing administrator, said her aunt, Valerie Abeling.

“They had everything going for them,” Abeling said. “She was a beautiful, sweet soul. He was, too. They were very sweet.”

“They were two very young, beautiful people,” said Abeling. “Everybody involved, it was horrific thing. Our lives have been changed forever.”

“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,” Erin McGowan’s uncle Anthony Vertucci told the Times Union. “They had big plans.”

AMANDA RIVENBURG

Amanda Rivenburg, 29, of Colonie, was close to her parents and remembered by friends and coworkers for her sense of humor. She worked for seven years for Living Resources, a New York nonprofit that works with people who have disabilities, serving as assistant director of the organization’s day community opportunities program.

Her colleagues came together at work on Monday to share stories about Rivenburg, a gathering that led to both tears and laughter.

“Amanda was loved by all of her coworkers,” said Steve Klein, associate executive director of program services at the company. “She was passionate about her work and everyone relied on her for guidance.”

SCOTT LISINICCHIA

Friends and family members identified Lisinicchia, 53, of Lake George, as the driver of the limousine on social media. His wife, Kim, posted on Facebook that “it hurts me to a core to have to bury my husband.” She linked to a GoFundMe that said Lisinicchia’s family “appreciates the love and support to help with his unexpected final expenses.”

“The investigation is STILL going on and the facts are not verified,” his niece, Courtney Lisinicchia, wrote on Facebook.

BRIAN HOUGH AND JAMES SCHNURR

Hough, a 46-year-old assistant professor of geology at the State University of New York at Oswego, and his father-in-law were the two pedestrians killed in the crash, according Facebook posts by relatives and media reports. SUNY Oswego officials said Monday that Hough died in an accident Saturday but didn’t say how he died.

The college’s statement said he arrived on campus in 2016 as a visiting professor. SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley called Hough “a dedicated faculty member who inspired his students to learn and understand at a deep level, and whose contributions were often sought by his colleagues.”

Hough’s mother, Artra Hough, told the New York Post that his father-in-law, James Schnurr, 71, was also killed. Police said Hough, of Moravia, and Schnurr, of Kerhonkson, were standing in the store parking lot when they were killed.

Hough is survived by his wife and their 8-year-old son, said Arta Hough, who lost a son to cancer four years ago. She described Brian as a “great father, great son.”

“He loved teaching, he loved working with students,” she said.

MICHAEL UKAJ

Ukaj, a former Marine from Johnstown who served a tour in Iraq, died on his 34th birthday, his mother told the Times Union of Albany.

Mary Aston said her son joined the Marines at 17, had post-traumatic stress disorder and was honorably discharged because of a medical condition. He was living at his maternal grandparents’ home near Amsterdam, she said.

“He was fixing up my parents’ house and enjoying his life,” Ashton said.

She said she had called her son on his birthday but couldn’t reach him.

“He was just such a good boy,” Ashton said. “My baby is gone.”

RACHAEL CAVOSIE

Facebook posts by relatives say Cavosie, 30, of Waterford, was known as “Rach” to all her cousins. One of them referred to her as “a soul that touched so many lives.”

The Times Union reports she is survived by her parents, one sister and two brothers. One of the cousins from the Albany area is raising funeral funds on GoFundMe.

___

Mustian reported from New York. Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Samantha Shotzbarger in New York, Saman Creel in Chicago, and Mary Esch and Chris Carola in Albany, New York.

AP RADIO
Update hourly