Federal investigators said Tuesday that a limousine’s “gross disregard for safety” was behind the 2018 crash that killed 20 people in New York State.
In a news release, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) also damaged the New York State Department of Transportation, which it said contributed to the crash through “ineffective oversight” by Prestige Limousine.
The agency said a breakdown of the modified SUV’s brake system, which a group of friends hired for a surprise party, led to a crash on October 6 that killed all 1
Among the dead were four sisters and three of their husbands.
Investigators concluded that the driver of the limousine may have tried – and failed – to apply the brakes as the jeep reached a speed of 100 miles per hour as it drove down a steep hill, blowing through an intersection and crashing into dere, the agency said.
“Seventeen young people have made the intelligent and safe decision to organize sober transport when they celebrate,” NTSB board member Michael Graham said during a hearing earlier Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. “They put their trust and safety in a system designed to protect them, and it failed.”
Prestige cameraman Naumann Hussein pleaded not guilty to 20 counts of manslaughter and negligence. The trial against him was due to begin in May, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the AP.
A lawyer representing Hussein did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The NTSB also stated that the public transport department was aware that Prestige had a number of “non-operating” violations and was not allowed to work. Nor has the SUV been properly registered with the State Department of Motor Vehicles, which allows the company to “circumvent” state safety regulations and stringent inspection requirements, the agency said.
“Knowledge of this tragedy can be prevented many times by those entrusted to protect us, making this catastrophe even more heartbreaking,” said NTSB President Robert Sumwalt.
A joint statement from the New York Department of Transportation and the Department of Motor Vehicles said regulators had “exercised the full powers conferred on us by law and ordered the vehicle to go off the road repeatedly, but as its own reports The NTSB confirmed that Prestige had repeatedly violated New York State law and had never been authorized to provide a commercial vehicle rental service in the state at any time.
The statement added that since then, New York has passed some of the strictest laws in the country that control the safety of commercial vehicles.