Last Sunday, a limousine carrying 18 people crashed and killed 2 pedestrians and everyone inside the vehicle. Passengers in the limo were celebrating a birthday party and heading from the small town of Schoharie to a brewery in upstate New York. The accident occurred after the limo ran a stop sign and crashed into a parked SUV. Though no one was in the SUV, 2 nearby pedestrians were struck as the limo violently shot across the road. With 20 lives taken, the accident is the deadliest traffic incident in nearly a decade.
Linda Riley, who was nearby when the accident occurred, said that it “sounded like an explosion.”
The cause of the accident remains under investigation. However, details are emerging that bring the safety of the limo into question.
The Limo Was Not Supposed to Be in Operation
Reports indicate that the 2001 Ford Excursion, converted into a stretch limousine, had recently failed a safety inspection. Stretch modifications have worried safety experts as they alter the vehicle’s structural integrity with aftermarket parts. Now, Governor Andrew Cuomo has revealed that the limo was not even supposed to be on the road.
“That vehicle was inspected by the New York State Department of Transportation last month and failed inspection and was not supposed to be on the road,” Cuomo said. “The driver needed what's called a CDL, a commercial driver license with a passenger endorsement. The driver did not have that proper license.”
These details reveal a startling disregard for safety on the part of the limo’s operator, Prestige Limousine Chauffeur Service. The Gansevoort, New York company recently had four vehicles taken out of service. With Sunday’s tragedy, Prestige Limousine’s negligent behavior has culminated in a deadly accident involving a dangerous vehicle and an unlicensed driver.
While the company has voluntarily removed its vehicles from the road during the NTSB’s investigation of the accident, officials are seeking to a cease-and-desist order to prevent Prestige Limousine from operating during the investigation.
Victim Remarked on Limo Condition Moments Before Accident
The New York Times revealed that passenger Erin Vertucci McGowan sent a text to a friend about the condition of the limousine just before the deadly accident. In her text, McGowan complained about how loud the vehicle’s engine was and joked that, “When we get to the brewery we will all b deaf [sic].” These messages would be among the last McGowan would send.
The NTSB Is Still Investigating the Accident
In a statement to the media, State Police Major Robert Patnaude said that the vehicle’s airbag module had been recovered from the accident. He also remarked on Prestige Limousine’s safety history by saying, “…the company and that vehicle have been under scrutiny of [safety officials] in the past.”
The NTSB will inspect all conditions that led to the accident, including road conditions, driver error, and the condition of the vehicle. Locals have reported that the intersection where the accident occurred is known for being dangerous. In fact, commercial trucks were banned from the route after a semi-truck plowed through the same section of road.
“They were all friends, of them were lifelong friends. Relatives, cousins, family.” Valerie Abeling, Erin Vertucci McGowan's aunt.
What is known for certain is the scope of the accident’s tragedy. Those that died in the limo were friends and family who have left behind a network of survivors. In total, four sisters, two brothers, and several couples lost their lives in the accident.
Arnold & Itkin offers its condolences to the friends and families that lost loved ones in the crash.