On Saturday, October 6, a limousine headed for a birthday party barreled through an intersection at the bottom of a steep hill in the small town of Schoharie, NY, crashing and killing its driver, all 17 passengers inside it and two pedestrians. It was the deadliest accident in the United States in nine years, and an investigation has been launched to find out just what went wrong and who, ultimately, is to be held responsible for it. A little over an hour southwest of Saratoga Springs, Schoharie’s a town not unlike many in our neck of the woods, and the story has hit close to home for many of us.
Since the accident, there’s been no shortage of outreach, support and fundraising efforts launched to help the families of the 20 victims—even in our own backyard. Locally, Downtown Saratoga restaurant Pig N’ Whistle hosted a paint-and-sip fundraiser on Thursday, October 18, to help victims’ families. “You just never know when something is going to hit your community,” the restaurant’s co-owner, Scott Solomon, told NBC’s local affiliate WNYT. “The community supports us every day of the year so when we get a chance to support the community we love to take advantage of it,” Solomon said.
Multiple GoFundMe pages, as well as a few Facebook fundraisers, have been set up as well, with nearly all efforts reaching or surpassing their desired monetary goals. One such Facebook page, set up for the The Ashton Family (see below), had a goal of $1000 and has already amassed more than $7500. The page was set up by friends of Mary and Kyle Ashton for their 34-year-old son, Michael Ukaj, who died in the crash. One female victim, Amanda Halse, had two separate GoFundMe set up in her honor. Some of the online fundraisers aimed to pitch in for funeral costs and additional needs for families of victims, while others have tried to provide financial support to the six children who lost at least one or both parents in the crash. A memorial has also been erected outside the Apple Barrel Country Café, the Schoharie store where the crash occurred, and in whose parking lot the two pedestrians killed in the accident were standing.
But fundraising is just one way the community has kicked into gear to help support victims’ families. One newly launched nonprofit and charity organization, Reflections Memorial Foundation, is working to establish a permanent memorial for the Schoharie crash victims, and already has fundraisers in the works to help raise money. The Foundation believes a memorial will be an important “way for all of us to express our sorrow and remember,” and its treasurer, Lois Goblet, told the Times Union the Foundation hopes to erect the memorial in time for the accident’s one-year anniversary.
Interested in pitching in? Here are several fundraising pages that have been launched for the families of or in the name of the Schoharie crash victims: