When she heard news about the horrific limousine accident that left 20 dead in upstate New York on Saturday afternoon, Martina Wieblitz Halse desperately tried to contact her daughter, Amanda Halse, who she knew was traveling with a large group in that same area.
Martina and her daughter, Karina Halse, repeatedly texted and called Amanda, but with each message sent and number dialed, their attempts went unanswered.
Then, their worst fears were realized when an investigator appeared at their door.
“I don’t even know what injuries she had,” Martina tells PEOPLE of finding out Amanda, 26, was in the limo when it crashed. “They told me that they took her out of the limousine and put her in an ambulance to go to the hospital and she still had a heartbeat.”
Amanda ultimately died from her injuries, which she suffered as she was celebrating her friend Amy Steenburg’s 30th birthday on October 6. The group of friends were in a limo that failed to stop at a T-intersection in the rural town of Schoharie in upstate New York. The limo flew into a nearby parking lot and crashed into an unoccupied SUV, killing the driver and all 17 passengers. The accident also claimed the lives of two pedestrians, who were struck by a parked SUV after it was slammed into by the limo.
“It’s terrible. I lost my baby. I last saw her the week before on a Saturday,” Martina says. “There’s nothing, nothing worse than this.”
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Martina, who is paralyzed, says she she saw a lot of herself in her daughter, Amanda, including her love of arts and crafts. Because of Martina’s condition, Amanda would spend time helping her mother tend to the flowers in her garden. The two had initially planned to go to a fall festival on Sunday, after Amanda returned from her trip with her friends.
“She was way too young ,” Martina says through tears. “She was such a kind person, everybody loved her.”
Amanda also shared a close relationship with her siblings.
“I am hanging in there. Taking it one step at a time,” says Amanda’s sister, Karina. “I feel a sense of strength when I talk about my sister so I believe she is helping me through this, but overall, I feel empty, devastated and just sad.”
During the drive, Amanda had been accompanied by her boyfriend, Patrick Cushing, 31, who was also killed in the crash.
“Patrick was such a passionate and good-hearted person. He had such empathy and kindness,” his brother, Justin Cushing, tells PEOPLE.
Patrick was a gifted athlete and played dodgeball for Team USA, Justin says, but most of all, he deeply loved those closest to him.
“He loved, hugged and cried with his friends and family like their problems were his,” he explains. “ celebrated with those same family and friends like our successes were his personal goals.”
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While he was passionate about photography and sports, Patrick was also devoted to his role as a godparent to Adam and Abigail Jackson’s two young daughters, Archer, 4, and 16-month-old Ellie.
“He took it like he was an adopted third parent,” Justin says. “He kept her pictures in his phone to show off like they were his own.”
Adam and Abigail also lost their lives in the crash, which is still under investigation. A GoFundMe page has been set up to provide for their daughters, which has raised more than $ 65,000.
With nearly two dozen people lost in the accident, the pain of the tragedy is felt far and wide. For Justin, who served as best man for Adam in his wedding to Abigail, the devastation is unimaginable.
“I lost my two best friends in this, in my brother and Adam. I lost my cousin in Erin ,” he says. “This was all so hard to write and I’m shaking knowing I’m missing something important to his life.”
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