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It crashed into an unoccupied parked vehicle and hit two pedestrians before coming to a rest in a shallow ravine, officials said. The governor said the limo failed a state safety inspection, which checks for things like suspension and brakes.

Amanda, 26, a waitress at a retirement community, was "a very strong and independent person" who didn't like people to do things for her, according to her sister.

The birthday party on Saturday had been a surprise for Steenburg from her new husband, her aunt Barbara Douglas told The New York Post.

Prestige Limousine has had vehicles inspected five times in the past five years and had four taken out of service, according to Department of Transportation records, ABC News reported.

The Steenburgs weren't the only newlywed couple in the vehicle; their friends Erin and Shane McGowan had only been married four months.

Local officials told the Times Union of Albany that a limo speeding down a hill hit bystanders Saturday afternoon at the Apple Barrel Country Store in Schoharie, about 170 miles (270 kilometers) north of New York City. "Then I heard screaming", said Bridey Finnagen, who lives nearby.

The tragedy in upstate NY is America's worst transportation crash in nearly a decade, according to federal authorities.

The National Transportation Safety Board says there were no apparent skid marks before a limousine barreled through an intersection and crashed into a parked vehicle, killing 20 people.

"Twenty fatalities, it's just horrific", Sumwalt told reporters Sunday.

The trip, which brought 17 people to Schoharie in a limo, was meant to celebrate Amy Steenburg's 30th birthday, a gift from her husband Axel Steenburg.

Valerie Abeling said her niece, Erin McGowan, 34, and her husband Shane, 30, were among the limo victims.

Somewhere along the way, Abeling said, the bus apparently broke down and the limousine was the replacement, she said.

King was killed in the crash along with her three sisters. Many were also parents - Rich Steenberg's daughter is just 10.

Authorities later determined that the vehicle had failed a safety inspection last month, and that the limo driver did not have the necessary commercial licence to operate the vehicle.

Robert Sumwalt, chief of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), told CNN that the accident should be "a wake-up call" for limousine safety. Federal transportation records say Prestige Limousine was owned by Shahed Hussain and was based at a motel in the area of Gansevoort.

Witnesses would later recall the limo blowing past a stop sign and plowing into the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store and Cafe at the bottom of the hill, police said.

"She was a handsome, sweet soul; he was, too, they were very sweet", Abeling said.

"The motor is making everyone deaf", Erin McGowan texted a friend, complaining that the vehicle was in "terrible condition", according to the Times. "When we get to brewery we will all b deaf", she texted the same friend, moments before the fatal crash.

The families have obtained little information about the circumstances surrounding the deaths of their loved ones, largely comprised of a close-knit group of high school and neighborhood friends from Amsterdam, New York.

All 20 people killed in the crash are being memorialized at a vigil Monday, including passengers Amanda Rivenburg, Rachael Cavosie, and Savannah Bursese.

"It's tragic. terrible. I can't even begin to even explain", Valerie Abeling told The Washington Post, confirming that her 34-year-old niece, Erin McGowan, and her new husband, Shane McGowan, 30, were among the dead.

Tom King, 35, said his four sisters who died - Abigail Jackson, Mary Dyson, Allison King and Amy Steenburg - "were very tight". The company did certify outside companies to modify them to Ford specifications for up to 14 seats during the 2001 model year, but it wasn't clear who modified the SUV that crashed Saturday. "Did he know the vehicle?"