A limousine company's disregard for safety, coupled with ineffective oversight from state regulators, led to a 2018 limo crash in upstate New York that left 20 dead, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a meeting Tuesday.
The limo was carrying a group of people traveling to a birthday party when it crossed an intersection in Schoharie, New York, and crashed into a parked vehicle, killing all 17 passengers, the driver and two pedestrians.
"Seventeen young people made the smart, safe decision to arrange for sober transportation when celebrating," NTSB board member Michael Graham said. "They put their trust and safety into a system designed to protect them, and it failed."
The meeting detailed the "egregious" actions by Prestige Limousine, the company that operated the limo, as well as the inadequate safety record of the vehicle.
"I have never seen such a series of bad decisions, and bad actors and people failing to take responsibility for their actions," NTSB's vice chairman, Bruce Landsberg, said.
According to the NTSB, Prestige Limousine "knowingly" operated a limousine in "poor mechanical condition" the day of the crash. The agency also said the company's maintenance program was not "effective" to ensure passengers' safety.
Investigators found the vehicle had failed an inspection just over a month before the crash, and that one of the brakes was non-operational at the time of the incident. If the brake system had been maintained, investigators said the vehicle "should have been capable" of stopping safely.
"I cannot imagine the pain of losing a loved one to this senseless, preventable tragedy," Graham said.
While the agency detailed various issues with the vehicle and limo company, it also pointed the finger at state regulators, saying they failed to verify safety forms and fell short in keeping the company from operating without proper authority.
"There were several missed opportunities and failures of oversight that allowed Prestige to operate," one investigator said.
The family of the driver previously stated they believe he was unknowingly "provided with a vehicle that was neither roadworthy nor safe for any of its occupants."
"Knowing this tragedy could have been prevented on numerous occasions, by those who are entrusted to protect us, makes this crash even more heartbreaking," NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said. "If our safety recommendations are implemented, they will go a long way toward preventing another Schoharie."
The operator of the limousine company, Nauman Hussain, is currently facing multiple charges including manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. He has pleaded not guilty.
Limo company's disregard for safety led to crash that killed 20, NTSB says