A New York limo company’s “egregious disregard for safety” and state safety regulators’ “ineffective oversight” led to a horrific 2018 limo crash that killed 20 people in Upstate New York, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in its final report of the accident.
“I have never seen such a series of bad decisions and bad actors,” NTSB vice-chairman Bruce Landsburg said in a clip aired by NBC News New York.
The NTSB’s investigation of the crash found that Prestige Limousine, operator of the super-stretch Ford Excursion limo, was not authorized to operate in New York state and that state transportation authorities missed seven chances to prevent the company from operating. The New York State Department of Transportation also failed to follow up on the limousine company’s previous violations, the NTSB report says.
“Knowing this tragedy could have been prevented on numerous occasions, by those who are entrusted to protect us, makes this crash even more heartbreaking,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.
Investigators found that the modified SUV limo had a badly corroded brake system, a crimped brake line that restricted the flow of brake fluid, and brake lines that were covered in brake fluid. They found that the limo driver likely tried and failed to apply the brakes as the vehicle began careening down a steep road but couldn’t because of the disrepair.
A group of 17 friends rented the limo to take them to a surprise birthday party on Oct. 6. The group included four sisters and the husbands of three of them. The passengers ranged in age from 24 to 34.
The limousine blew through a three-way intersection at NY-30 and NY 30-A at 100 mph, crashed into a stationary Toyota Highlander in the Apple Barrel restaurant parking lot, and plunged into a ravine. In addition to all 17 passengers, the limo crash killed the 53-year-old driver and two pedestrians.
“Seventeen young people made the smart, safe decision to arrange for sober transportation when celebrating,” NTSB board member Michael Graham in a Tuesday hearing, according to The Associated Press. “They put their trust and safety into a system designed to protect them, and it failed.”
The NTSB said that NYDOT knew that Prestige Limo had multiple “out-of-service” violations and was not allowed to operate, yet the company’s limos continued to drive passengers around Upstate New York.
The agency recommended that the transportation department establish stricter inspection guidelines. The recommendation prompted some New York limo company owners to push back, arguing that the current regulations are adequate but that stronger enforcement of them is needed.
Nauman Hussain, the operator of Prestige Limo, has been charged with 20 counts of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. His trial was originally scheduled for May but has been postponed because of the pandemic.
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