Limo crash that killed 20 people failed inspection and driver was unqualified, says Governor Andrew Cuomo
As details begin to emerge about the deadly limousine crash in upstate New York, it's becoming clear that the company that rented out the vehicle is culpable
Details are still emerging on the deadly limousine crash on Saturday in upstate New York that resulted in the deaths of 20 people, including all 18 people traveling in the vehicle, with Governor Andrew Cuomo revealing recent developments at the Columbia Day Parade. Speaking to reporters, Cuomo said that the limousine, a 2001 Ford Excursion, had recently failed inspection and 53-year-old driver Scott Lisnicchia was not licensed properly to operate the vehicle.
According to the New York Times, the name of the company that rented out the vehicle was Prestige Limousine, who have a history of failed inspections, did business out of a low-budget hotel, had ties to a scheme to obtain illegal driver licenses, and whose owner has reportedly had run-ins with federal law enforcement.
The Daily Gazette reported that the company also operated under two other names — Saratoga Luxury Limousine and Hasy Limousine — and that it shared an address with three other similarly named companies.
Cuomo told reporters that the limousine involved in the accident had failed an inspection just last month and that it "was not supposed to be on the road". He said that the Ford Excursion was "chopped" and elongated and was subject to federal review that it was legal. But at the time of the accident, it did not have any such approval.
It was a view that was tragically backed up by the texts that one of the victims, 34-year-old Erin McGowan, sent to her friends minutes before the limousine careened over the steep ravine and killed all its passengers. She had described the vehicle as being in a "terrible condition" and that "the motor is making everyone deaf."
The governor also said that there would be possibly be "consequences" to the owner of the company, who the New York Times identified as Shahed Hussain, allegedly a former informant for the FBI who has testified in two prominent terrorism cases in the past. "The law here was you need your vehicle to pass inspection. And this vehicle was inspected just last month, and it failed inspection," Cuomo said. "The owner of the company, in my opinion, because there'll be legal consequences, had no business putting a failed vehicle on the road."
He also said that Lisnicchia was unqualified to operate the vehicle. According to state law, a person who wants to drive a limousine must be in possession of a commercial driver's license with a passenger endorsement, something that the 53-year-old did not have.
The accident unfolded at around 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon at the intersection of State Route 30 and State Route 30A. The limousine is said to have sped through the intersection without stopping and into the parking lot of a popular Apple Barrel County Store. Here, it hit an unoccupied 2015 Toyota Highlander, then hit and killed two pedestrians standing nearby, before falling off the steep ravine. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the crash was the country's deadliest transport accident since a plane crash killed 50 people in 2009 in Buffalo.
It is currently unclear whether the accident was caused by a vehicular malfunction or by a driver error, with Cuomo saying, "We don't yet know the cause of the accident - if it was vehicle malfunction, if it was driver malfunction, driver error - that's part of the ongoing investigation between the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) and the state police."
In a statement, the Prestige expressed its condolences to the relatives of those who lost their lives in the accident, writing, "We are performing a detailed internal investigation to determine the cause of the accident," and that they had "already met with state and federal investigators, and plan to do so again." The limousine company has been ordered to stop operating pending an investigation.