Investigators described it as the deadliest transportation crash in nearly nine years. Among the 20 victims, three Plattsburgh State alumnae sat in the white stretch limousine that would soon take their lives in Schoharie on the afternoon of Oct. 6.
Sisters Allison King ‘10 and Amy Steenburg ‘11, along with their friend Amanda Rivenburg, were on their way to a birthday celebration at a brewery in Cooperstown, according to multiple articles from The New York Times.
The limousine was rented by Steenburg’s husband, Axel Steenburg. The two had married over the summer, and the group of friends had gathered to celebrate Amy Steenburg’s 30th birthday. The crash killed all 18 occupants of the limousine, including the driver, as well as two pedestrians.
State police said the 2001 Ford Excursion limousine barreled down one roadway and passed through the T-intersection where the two highways intersect without stopping, crashing into another vehicle, an unoccupied 2015 Toyota Highlander, before landing in a shallow ravine beyond the road. The two pedestrians were struck near the Apple Barrel and killed.
King, Steenburg and Rivenburg graduated from PSUC with bachelor’s degrees in communications, psychology and social work. They lived in deFredenburgh, Moffit and Hood Halls while they were undergraduate students almost 13 years ago.
Despite the year gaps, one former PSUC faculty member and one alumnus were available for comment about the three deceased alumnae.
When Rivenburg was a student, Jean LeClair was the secretary for the counselor education department, the human development and family relations department and the social work department. As a work-study student, Rivenburg worked in LeClair’s office for two years.
LeClair retired from PSUC 10 years ago but still remembers Rivenburg well.
“Amanda was a trustworthy, caring person,” LeClair said. “She was very well liked by the faculty in our three departments and other students. She worked well with others and was a kind fun-loving person. When I saw the accident on the news and they released the names of the people in the limo, I was devastated.”
After graduation, Rivenburg worked at Living Resources in Albany, assisting people with disabilities. LeClair remembers Rivenburg as one of many former students who wanted to stay in touch after she retired from the university.
“Many of them reached out to [Facebook] friend me, Amanda included,” LeClair said. “I do remember when she got her job at Living Resources. I thought she’d do an excellent job. She will be truly missed.”
Alumnus Monty Bopp met Steenburg when he was a sophomore but grew to know her better when the two took a social psychology course during his junior year. They sat next to each other in class, studied together and became friends who would occasionally hang out and say hi when they saw each other around town. Bopp graduated from PSUC in 2009.
“Her intelligence came through in every conversation, and I was always impressed with her work ethic as a student athlete,” Bopp said. “On top of that, you could tell she had a heart of gold. I remember how she talked about her family and how much she appreciated what they had together.”
Bopp said King was friends with his former roommate, so she was always over at their apartment, allowing him to get to know her as well for the last three semesters he spent at PSUC.
Through the same former roommate’s Facebook post, Bopp learned of the fatal crash that killed two of his former college friends.
“I can vividly remember both Amy and Allie as being there as regular friends in my day-to-day life, and to hear the news of their passing was incredibly shocking,” Bopp said. “My heart goes out to the families of all the victims in this horrific tragedy.”
The Times further reported that four days after the crash, investigators bore down on the limousine company, which had a record of repeated safety violations, and arrested its operator Nauman Hussain, charging him with criminally negligent homicide. He pleaded not guilty.
Democratic senator Chuck Schumer has called on the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate all future limousine crashes nationwide in order to create stricter safety regulations for the vehicles.
“Stretch limos exist in a gray area,” Schumer said during a press conference in Manhattan. “They’re not a car. They’re not a bus. And that’s the problem. They fall through the regulatory cracks and there are no safety standards for them. That has to change.”