WINTERPORT (NEWS CENTER Maine) — The Maine mother of a man who died in the deadliest vehicular accident in nearly a decade says she is angry with the company that owned the limousine.
Michael Ukaj, was celebrating his 34th birthday on Oct. 6, along with 16 friends when their rented limousine lost control, crashing into a parked car and hitting two pedestrians in the town of Schoharie about 40 miles north of Albany.
All 18 passengers and the two pedestrians died.
Mary Ashton, of Winterport, says she had to wait 48 hours before police could positively identify that her son had, in fact, died in the wreck.
Ashton told NBC News, when police first contacted her they believed Michael had been in the limo but were not sure.
"It appears that Michal suffered pretty severe injuries because he was one of the last two to be identified," Ashton said.
Ukaj was a former marine and graduated from Hampden Academy in 2002.
Mary Ashton says she is angry at the company that rented the limo which may have not been legally modified and whose owner has been in Pakistan for over a year, according to NBC.
"Look at how many families have lost lives because of that vehicle and the company really should be held responsible," Ashton said.
"Michael was a terrific boy, a wonderful son, he was a good friend to me. Everyone who knew Michael loved him and he had a warm funny character...You could say he was a wise guy and a straight shooter. He was both," said Michael's step-father Kyle Ashton.
"It doesn't feel real," visibly distraught Mary Ashton said. Ukaj was just 17 when he joined the Marine Corp. His parents say that being a Marine was all he ever wanted to do.
Ukaj went through basic training on his 18th birthday according to his mother, but by 21 Ukaj was suffering from PTSD after he watched members of his platoon killed in Iraq and was discharged from the service.
"(Michael) survived all of that to go to a birthday party, to be safe, to not drink and drive to get in a limousine, to have some careless person take my baby from me," Mary Ashton said.
Mary and Kyle Ashton called him on the evening he died to wish their son a happy birthday but they have since learned he was already dead by the time they called.
According to Mary Ashton's Facebook page, Sgt. Ukaj's Celebration of Life Services will be held Tuesday, Oct. 16, from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at the A.G. Cole Funeral Home in Johnstown, N.Y.
Mary says memorial services will be held Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 11 a.m. at the same location. A service with military honors will be held at the Saratoga National Cemetery at 2 p.m.