Vigil held in Amsterdam for Schoharie crash victims

October 09, 2018 09:48 AM

AMSTERDAM – Around 2,000 people gathered in the city of Amsterdam Monday night for a vigil for the 20 people killed in Schoharie after a limousine crashed.

"It's terrible to lose one person and then to have just a car full of people that you love go, it's I can't even put it into words to be honest with you," said Kurt Smith, who was friends with many of the victims.

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Organizers of Monday night's vigil said 17 of the 20 people killed had ties to the Amsterdam area.

"Thing with this is that its whole families that have been completely gutted," said Gina-Marie Semkiw, who also knew many of the victims. "It's not just one person or something like that, it's literal whole families that have been ripped away."

At the vigil, many close friends of the victims took time to remember them.

"They were just full of life," said Tammy Smith who was the softball coach for the four sisters who died in the crash. "Daredevils on the ball field. They were just, I don't even know how to say it, great kids."

Semkiw also knew the King Sisters along with three of their husbands killed in the crash as well as Erin and Shane McGowan.

"The thing is they were all amazing people, every single one of them," said Semkiw. "They were kind and had big smiles and big hearts."

A co-worker of Erin McGowan also talked about how difficult it was to return to work Monday without her.

"She was a beautiful soul inside and out," said Bonnie Puglisi. "She was very sweet, loving. We're missing her very much."

The roommate of victim Matthew Coons said he considered Coons family.

"I just lost the best friend I've ever had in my life," said Kurt Smith. "My real brother isn't as close to me as Matt was. He was the best person I ever knew."

There were a lot of tears and long embraces at the vigil. Candles were lit and several officials spoke to family members of the victims, encouraging them that they will get through this tragedy.

"That void that is in your heart right now will be filled, your strength will be renewed and that peace will come back," said New York State Senator George Amedore.

But many friends of the victims said it's difficult to even think about how they'll move forward.

"I don't even know, cry until it's all out of me and then try and just accept it," said Kurt Smith.

Amsterdam School District will be on a one-hour delay Tuesday, so staff will be able to prepare to help any students who are struggling from this tragedy.

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