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Arkady Frekhtman

New York Limo Driver Kills 20 After Running Stop Sign

Tragedy struck when a New York limo driver ran a stop sign and plowed right into a parked SUV. All 17 passengers and the limo driver were killed. Two innocent pedestrians also lost their lives. Although a lengthy investigation may be required, there are early signs of possible negligence. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated that the limo driver did not hold a qualified driver’s license to be behind the wheel of the extended stretch limo.

The driver’s license required is a CDL — commercial driver’s license with a passenger endorsement added to it. Furthermore, the 2001 Ford Expedition that was converted into a limo probably didn’t meet all required safety standards. All too often, many safety compliance standards are waived for these vehicles.

General information known about the victims

News reports indicate that the 17 limo passengers were celebrating one person’s birthday. And one or two of the couples aboard were newlyweds. In fact, one couple had just gotten married back in June 2018. Four of the passengers were sisters – and one married couple left behind three children who no longer have a parent.

At the time of the crash, the partygoers were heading out for further activities at a New York brewery.

Company and owner of the apparently defective limo

Prestige Limousine Chauffeur Service, operating out of Gansevoort, New York, may still have three vehicles and two drivers. During the past two years, the company vehicles were inspected five times. However, four vehicles belonging to Prestige were taken out of service.

Oddly enough, according to an NBC news article, the owner of Prestige Limousine once worked with the FBI as an informant on several terrorism cases. Shahed Hussain, owner of the company, could not be reached for comment since he was in Pakistan at the time the deadly crash took place in Schoharie, New York. Hussain’s son apparently runs the company.

Questions and concerns remain regarding the limo’s structure and maintenance

Deborah Hersman, who currently serves as CEO and president of the National Safety Council (and who formerly chaired the National Transportation Safety Board) has said that these types of “Frankenstein” stretch limos aren’t always trustworthy since they’ve frequently been cut up and put back together with outside parts and pieces. During this reconstruction process, certain important features like airbags and seatbelts may not be properly installed or even kept.

She also notes that once larger vehicles are reconstructed, their various modifications can greatly affect (1) how the driver handles the vehicle on the road and (2) its ability to sustain or respond to crashes. Stated differently, once limos are modified after coming off an assembly line, it’s much easier for them to get around proper National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) oversight.

Other structural integrity issues are also present when vehicles like this New York limo are driven. These special concerns can include one or more of the following safety issues.

  • An inadequate number of lap and shoulder seatbelts may be available for passengers;
  • Proper seat configuration may not be present – according to federal regulations;
  • Tires may be improperly inflated and maintained;
  • A functional air bag controller may not be installed. In the recent Schoharie accident, investigators said they’ve located the limo’s “air bag control module” – referenced as the equivalent of a vehicle’s black box;
  • Inadequate breaking capacity – often made worse by the unusually heavy load of passengers.

Although the limo driver died in this accident, investigative efforts must include determining if he may have been drunk or overly fatigued – especially since he failed to slow down for the stop sign that he ran – just seconds before the fatal crash.

Severity of this limo accident compared to other somewhat similar crashes

Between 2012 and 2016, nineteen (19) deaths involving limousines were recorded – and most of those victims were not wearing seatbelts. Here’s additional information about several other deadly limo accidents that have occurred during the past two decades.

  • Suffolk County, New York, 2015. For women enjoying a winery tour died after their limo was hit by a pickup truck. The limo had been attempting to make a U-turn at the time the accident occurred. The grand jury that met regarding this case asked Governor Cuomo to put together a task force that could address limousine safety. It’s not clear if that type of safety group was ever created or convened;
  • New York, 2005. A limo driver and a seven-year-old girl died after a drunk driver crashed into them following a wedding on Long Island. The drunk driver was convicted of murder;
  • San Francisco, 2013. Five women died in a limo following a bridal shower. Their limousine caught on fire while crossing the San Mateo bridge.

If you’ve been seriously injured in a limo or auto accident, you need to contact your New York personal injury lawyer for legal advice. Our hard-won experience allows us to properly investigate your case and put together proper personal injury claims that help us negotiate maximum settlement awards or win high jury verdicts that can fully compensate you for your pain and suffering – as well as all your economic losses.

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