State Watchdog Agrees With NTSB on Blame in Limo Crash

Inspector general reports gaps in policies and procedures
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 29, 2020 5:00 PM CDT
Updated Oct 29, 2022 4:20 PM CDT
NTSB Faults Regulators in Limo Crash That Killed 20
n this Oct. 7, 2018 file photo, friends of victims that died in a fatal limousine crash comfort each other after placing flowers at the intersection of the accident in Schoharie, NY.   (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

Update: A state watchdog released a report Friday night blaming New York regulators in the 2018 fatal crash of a limousine—just as federal regulators did two years ago. Oversight by the Department of Transportation and Department of Motor Vehicles was inadequate, state Inspector General Lucy Lang found, the AP reports. The report didn't attribute the failure to quickly identify the limousine operator's misconduct to any malfeasance on the part of state regulators, but it did find "significant gaps in policies, procedures and interagency communications." The state Transportation Department contested some of the findings. Our story from September 2020 follows:

State regulators in New York repeatedly failed to properly oversee a poorly maintained stretch limousine with corroded brakes that hurtled down a hill at more than 100mph and crashed in a ravine, killing 20 people, federal investigators said Tuesday. National Transportation Safety Board members unanimously voted to accept a final report that found widespread fault in the 2018 crash in upstate New York, the AP reports. The NTSB found that the crash was likely caused by Prestige Limousine's “egregious disregard for safety” that resulted in brake failure on a long downhill stretch of road and that ineffective state oversight contributed. NTSB Chairperson Robert Sumwalt also criticized the local prosecutor and state police for what he said was a lack of cooperation with the agency's crash investigation.

Some NTSB investigators "were outright blocked from even viewing, let alone examining, critical evidence," Sumwalt said. The crash killed 17 family members and friends, including four sisters and three of their husbands, along with the driver and two bystanders outside a country store. It was the deadliest transportation disaster in the United States in a decade. Prestige took pains to avoid more stringent inspection rules intended to ensure a modified vehicle has the braking capacity and other requirements for carrying a heavier load, according to the NTSB documents. Prestige operator Nauman Hussain faces 20 charges each of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. He has pleaded not guilty and was scheduled to stand trial in May, but the trial was delayed because of the pandemic.

(More National Transportation Safety Board stories.)

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