20 killed in New York state car crash: police

In this Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018 photo, emergency personnel respond to the scene of a deadly crash involving a limousine in Schoharie, N.Y. (AP)
Updated 07 October 2018

20 killed in New York state car crash: police

  • Police said the accident occurred Saturday afternoon when two cars collided in Schoharie County
  • An SUV-style stretch limousine sped down a hill, crashing into pedestrians

NEW YORK: Twenty people have been killed after a limousine careened out of control in what investigators described Sunday as the most deadly transportation accident in the United States for nearly a decade.
All 18 occupants of the SUV-style stretch limo died along with two pedestrians on Saturday afternoon in upstate New York, police deputy superintendent Christopher Fiore told a news conference.
He said the 2001 Ford Excursion had failed to stop at an intersection and continued into a parking lot, ultimately crashing into a parked car. Investigators have not yet established if the victims were wearing seatbelts.
"Twenty fatalities is horrific... This is one of the biggest losses of lives that we have seen in a long, long time," added National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chairman Robert Sumwalt.
"This is the most deadly transportation accident in the country since February of 2009," he added -- referring to the Colgan Air Flight crash from New Jersey to New York, which killed 49.
Pictures posted on Twitter by Jesse McKinley, the Albany bureau chief for the New York Times, showed a hair brush and a fragment of tail light in the grass at the side of the road, in the aftermath. Deep muddy tire tracks disappeared into woodland beyond.
The tragedy unfolded outside the Apple Barrel Country Store and Cafe in the town of Schoharie, southwest of the state capital Albany and a three-hour drive north of New York City.
"That limo was coming down that hill probably over 60 mph... I don't want to describe the scene. It's not something I want to think about," manager Jessica Kirby was quoted as saying.
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.
A witness named by local media as Bill Waterson said the limousine was carrying a party on their way to a wedding reception, although this was not confirmed by police.
"This is terrible, terrible, terrible," he told the Times Union.
"I heard some screaming. It looked serious because people were running back and forth," a witness identified as Bridey Finegan told local NBC affiliate WNYT.
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 $808.1 million in hospitalization and emergency department charges, the Department of Health says on its website.
The Apple Barrel, 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."


India blocks SMS services in Kashmir after trucker killed

Updated 15 October 2019

India blocks SMS services in Kashmir after trucker killed

  • Security sources said the decision to cut text messaging services was taken to reduce the ability of militants to communicate
  • Indian authorities had only restored call and text services for mobile phones

SRINAGAR: Text messaging services were blocked in Indian Kashmir just hours after being restored when a truck driver was killed by suspected militants and his vehicle set ablaze, authorities said Tuesday.
Separately Indian officials said that a 24-year-old woman died in the latest exchange of artillery fire with Pakistan over their de-facto border dividing the blood-soaked Himalayan region.
Security sources said the decision to cut text messaging services was taken to reduce the ability of militants to communicate.
Indian authorities had only restored call and text services for mobile phones on Monday, following a 72-day blackout in the restive northern territory imposed after New Delhi scrapped the region's semi-autonomous status.
The seven million-plus people of the Kashmir Valley — the main hotbed of resistance to Indian rule — are still cut off from the Internet, however.
Authorities said SMS services were cut again on Monday night following the attack on the driver of a truck carrying apples in Shopian.
Residents said two masked gunmen told the driver to use his truck to block the road, but it skidded and got stuck.
“The gunmen then fired at the truck and set it on fire,” a witness told AFP.
Apples are a sensitive issue in Kashmir, which exports vast quantities of the fruit to markets across India.
Many orchard owners say they are refusing to harvest this year to protest against the government’s move to scrap Kashmir’s autonomy.
Indian authorities say that militants — backed by arch-rival Pakistan — have been intimidating farmers and businessmen.
The latest death from Pakistani artillery fire over the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir brings the number of fatalities on the Indian side to three in the past four days, the Press Trust of India reported.
Two Indian soldiers were killed in two separate incidents on Friday and Sunday, PTI said. It was unclear if there were any fatalities from Indian fire on the Pakistani side.
Also on Tuesday, police arrested 13 women activists in Srinagar after they staged a protest calling for civil liberties and the release of detainees.
The women, wearing black armbands, were arrested for “breaching the peace” and for a contravening a ban in place since early August on public gatherings of more than four people, police said.
They included the sister and daughter of former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, one of several hundred local politicians, lawyers and others in custody since early August, mostly without charge.
Abdullah, 81, was formally arrested in mid-September under the highly contentious Public Safety Act (PSA) that allows someone to be held for up to two years without charge, and which has been used widely in Kashmir in recent years.
Rebels have been fighting for three decades some 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in the territory, demanding independence or to join Pakistan which also controls part of the region and, like India, claims it in full.