Twenty people have been killed in a crash involving a limousine transporting a wedding party in the US state of New York, police say.
All 18 people in the limousine died along with two pedestrians in the incident on Saturday afternoon in the town of Schoharie, police confirmed.
Eyewitnesses described seeing an SUV-style stretch limousine leave the road and plough into people at a store and cafe near a busy intersection.
The cause of the crash is unclear.
State police said on Sunday that passengers travelling in the limousine, described as a 2001 Ford Excursion, would not have been required to wear seatbelts.
Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionRelatives of the victims visited the scene of the accident in Schoharie on Sunday
The driver was also killed in the crash, they said, adding that the victims would not be officially named until families had been informed.
Bill Waterson, who said he was invited to attend the wedding that the limousine was travelling from, said he could not believe what he had witnessed, describing it as “terrible”, the Albany Times Union reported.
A reporter for local news site Spectrum News, Mercedes Williams, tweeted images and footage from the scene of the incident, which took place near a store and cafe on routes 30 and 30A in Schoharie County.
The images show a long line of emergency services vehicles lining the roads, which were closed to traffic.
Image Copyright @MercedesTVnews@MERCEDESTVNEWS
Another image shared on Twitter showed a large vehicle that appeared to have veered off the road and crashed into a tree.
Image Copyright @CBS6Albany@CBS6ALBANY
Eyewitnesses said that a number of people entering and leaving the store were hit in Saturday’s incident, local media report.
“I heard this loud bang, I saw a lot of people here at the Apple Barrel [store and cafe] out in the parking lot. Then I heard screaming,” said Bridey Finnagen, who lives nearby.
New York State Police Cpt Richard O’Brien said on Sunday that the investigation was still in its “infancy stages”, adding that “several” separate police units were involved, including a “facial identification unit” and a drone team.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) tweeted that it was also sending a team of investigators to the site of the “limo crash”.
NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt later told a press conference that it was “one of the biggest losses of life we’ve seen”, adding that it was the “most deadly transportation accident since February 2009”.
Authorities have said they expect investigators to be “on the ground” for at least five days.
Police said that a phone line had been set up to help assist relatives of the victims.
The location of the intersection is said to be in a hilly region and local authorities had only recently banned large trucks from using sections of the route.