SCHENECTADY — Dozens of volunteers from Union College and people from across New York state came together Sunday for a concert at Mohawk Harbor to remember the 20 people who died in a limousine crash in early October and honor the emergency personnel who responded to the scene.
The fundraising event dubbed Healing Schoharie was organized by the college volunteers and other local organizations, including Proctors, the Galesi Group and Rivers Casino & Resort.
The concert featured performances by local bands Skeeter Creek and Grand Central Station. Tickets to the event, which ran from noon until about 4 p.m., were $10. Druthers Brewing at Mohawk Harbor also committed to donate all proceeds from its beer sales at the event and 50 percent of all customer checks served at the restaurant. Other food vendors also donated a percentage of their sales
Raffles with various prizes were also included in the day to raise money. All proceeds from the door fees and raffles will go to the families of victims and first responders.
The crash happened at the intersection of routes 30 and 30A in the town of Schoharie, when the stretch limousine carrying the driver and 17 passengers to a birthday celebration went through a stop sign, struck and killed two pedestrians in the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store and crashed down a small ravine.
Everyone in the limousine was killed, including four sisters from the same Amsterdam family, along with three of their spouses. Their friends and other relatives were among those killed. The crash was the nation’s worst transportation-related disaster in nearly a decade.
Nauman Hussain, 28, of Cohoes, faces one count of criminally negligent homicide related to the Oct. 6 crash.
State police have identified him as the operator of Prestige Limo of Saratoga County, which owned the vehicle. Investigators believe Hussain was solely responsible for the limo being on the road.
Starting around noon, people began to arrive at Mohawk Harbor as the bands, including a capella groups from Union College prepared to kick the day off.
Phil Wajda, Union College spokesman and event organizer, said there were 70 volunteers on the site from the college, spanning across all of the school’s sports teams and Greek life organizations.
“We put out a call for help, and they responded wonderfully,” Wajda said on Sunday.
He and various other Union employees or friends reached out to groups with a request that they participate. Everyone involved, Wajda said, was immediately willing to contribute to the event.
“This is a completely grass-roots effort,” he said.
“I found out about it through my lacrosse coach,” said Owen White, a freshman who was taking admission payments at the fundraiser.
Allison Intrieri, who lives in Manhattan but came to Schenectady for the fundraiser, said she heard about the tragedy on the news and was profoundly affected by it.
“When I heard about the mom who lost four of her daughters, that really resonated with me,” she said.
Intrieri, who is a television writer for shows including “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” then found out about the fundraiser and approached her colleagues about putting together merchandise baskets to be raffled off that included signed scripts.
But Intrieri wanted to take things a step further, so she reached out to friends who also work in television to see if they would be interested in contributing.
When the time came for the concert on Sunday, she had secured two once-in-a-lifetime raffle prizes: set visits to “Law & Order: SVU” and NBC’s hit series “This Is Us.”
Intrieri’s goal was to provide a small measure of comfort for the families who are grappling with the loss of their children, friends and family from the crash.
“The world is so crazy right now,” she said. “I’m hoping the kindness of strangers will lift these people’s spirits.”
Schoharie Fire Chief Marty Pierce said on Sunday that the benefit concert was the first step in what will be a long path to coming to terms with the crash, both for victims and the emergency responders who were at the crash.
Pierce said he believes that the men and women who responded to the crash might not ever completely recover from dealing with what they saw. But, he said, strangers coming together to support them and the victims’ families would go far in bolstering the community.
“This is the start of the healing process,” he said.