The limo from Saturday’s crash that killed 20 failed a safety inspection last month, according to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“The owner of the company had no business putting a failed vehicle on the road,” he said Monday, NBC News reports.
The limo in question was going downhill on a rural highway on Saturday at approximately 60 miles per hour, said one eyewitness. According to the New York Times, the vehicle sped out of control, rushed through an intersection and crashed into a parked car. The 17 passengers—including four sisters, two brothers and at least three young couples, all on their way to a birthday party at an upstate brewery—were killed along with the driver and two pedestrians.
The party bus that was originally rented by the party-goers broke down on its way, according to the Times. They were instead picked up by the stretch limo, which was reportedly in poor condition. One passenger texted a friend during the ride prior to the crash, saying, “The motor is making everyone deaf.”
The National Transportation Safety Board and state police are still investigating the cause of the fatal crash was a mechanical or operator error, but recent revelations show a slew of illegal practices on behalf of the rental company, Prestige Limousine. Prestige has been issued a cease and desist order pending the investigation’s conclusion.
The Ford Excursion limo was a “chopped vehicle,” Cuomo said, meaning it had been cut and elongated into a stretch limo. This requires specific certifications ensuring the car is up to par with federal safety standards, as a stretched body can put extra strain on the car’s brakes and tires. This limo did not have that certification, said Cuomo.
Aside from the failed inspections, the driver of the vehicle did not have the proper license. The law requires someone in his role to have a commercial driver’s license with a passenger endorsement, which he did not have, said Cuomo.
The tragedy has led people to question the current regulations surrounding commercial vehicles, but the governor argued that sometimes “the law worked fine, and the regulation worked fine—they were just broken.”
According to Bloomberg, however, the state of New York does not require limo passengers to wear seat belts. It’s not known if the victims of Saturday’s crash were wearing seat belts at the time.
After another fatal limo crash three years ago, Senator Chuck Schumer called for an analysis of federal safety standards.
“It’s clear that stretching a limo can put the wheels in motion for a terrible tragedy,” Schumer said in a press release at the time, according to Bloomberg. “All too often, stretched limousines lack basic safety protections, including not enough side impact air bags, rollover bars, appropriate exits and more.”
In his press conference Monday, Cuomo maintained that the owner of the limo company has “a lot of questions to answer” and could “certainly” face a liability suit.