A ceremony for the victims of the limousine crash that killed 20 people ended with participants lifting candles above their heads to signal unity and perseverance.
Over 1,000 people jammed a riverside park in Amsterdam, New York, for Monday night's vigil (Tuesday NZT) as victims' relatives tried to come to grips with the tragedy that happened as a group of friends and family were on their way to a 30th birthday party.
The supersized limo ran a stop sign and hit a parked SUV on Saturday in Schoharie.
Authorities have yet to say how fast the limo was going or determine why it failed to stop and sped off the road at the bottom of a long hill.
The 19-seat vehicle had at least some seat belts, but it was unclear whether anyone was wearing them, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.
The crash about 270 kilometres north of New York City came three years after another deadly stretch-limo wreck in New York state spurred calls for Governor Andrew Cuomo to examine such vehicles' safety. There is no evidence the state took any steps to do so.
Some relatives of the dead shed tears as local officials expressed solidarity with them.
Family members and friends gather for a candlelight vigil memorial in Amsterdam, N.Y.
Source: Associated Press
US Representative Paul Tonko, a Democrat from Amsterdam, told a crowd that spilled onto a bridge spanning the Mohawk River, "We are crushed with you, we are crushed for you."
Some relatives shed tears as a woman sang Amazing Grace. The ceremony ended with everyone lifting their candles above their heads in unity.
The wreck killed two pedestrians and all 18 people in the limousine, including four sisters who were headed with friends and relatives to a brewery for a party for one of the sisters.
The four sisters' aunt, Barbara Douglas, said they had felt "they did the responsible thing getting a limo so they wouldn't have to drive anywhere."
"My heart is sunken. It's in a place where I've never felt this type of pain before," said Karina Halse, who lost her 26-year-old sister Amanda.
Authorities haven't released the driver's name, but friends and relatives identified him on social media as Scott Lisinicchia.
"The investigation is STILL going on and the facts are not verified," his niece, Courtney Lisinicchia, wrote on Facebook.
The state moved to shut down the owner, Prestige Limousine, as state and federal authorities investigated the cause of Saturday's wreck in Schoharie. The company said it was taking its cars off the road while conducting its own probe into the crash.
Investigators plan to examine the mangled limo's data recorders and mechanical systems as well as the road, which has a history as a danger spot. They are also looking into the driver's record and qualifications and conducting an autopsy to see if drugs or alcohol were factors.
But officials already saw some red flags, Mr Cuomo said: The driver didn't have the necessary commercial licence, and the vehicle failed a state inspection that examined such things as the chassis, suspension and brakes.
"In my opinion, the owner of this company had no business putting a failed vehicle on the road," the governor said while attending a Columbus Day Parade in New York City. "Prestige has a lot of questions to answer."
He also said the limo - built by cutting apart a heavy-duty SUV and lengthening it - had been created without federal certification, though NTSB officials said they hadn't yet determined whether the vehicle met federal standards.
Prestige Limousine issued a statement on Monday expressing condolences to victims' families and saying it was conducting "a detailed internal investigation" while also meeting with state and federal authorities.