ALBANY – The National Transportation Safety Board's initial report on the October 6 limousine accident, which killed 20 people in Schoharie County, was released Monday – but it contains little information that would 39, were not yet known to the public.
The three-paragraph, two-page report presents the essential facts of what happened when the Ford Excursion stretch crossed a stop sign located at the intersection of Routes 30 and 30A and passed through the parking lot of the Apple Barrel store, killing two pedestrians. before landing in a ravine. The 17 passengers on board were killed in addition to the driver.
According to the report, the NTSB "continues to gather information on changes and mechanical status of the vehicle, on the use of the seat belt and the survivability of passengers, as well as on the monitoring of passenger transportation operations by the New York State Department of Transportation and New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. "
NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said the next step was for the NTSB to complete the fact-gathering phase of its investigation, which would result in a detailed factual report including all the documents and evidence gathered by the NTSB. ;agency.
Weiss has not put any timetable for the release of this report, but said that it would be widely distributed on social networks when it will be completed due to the public interest. He called the preliminary report only a summary of the information collected "on the scene".
The factual report would include documents such as the DMV reports on the vehicle and the driver, the DOT inspection material and other facts gathered in the case. An analysis report would come later, then a final report with probable cause and future safety recommendations.
Such investigations take one to two years to complete, Weiss said.
The Times Union has published numerous reports the shortcomings of state regulation that allowed the limo, owned by Saratoga County's Prestige Limousines, to remain on the road despite numerous failed inspections in the months leading up to the crash. Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed a wide range of regulatory changes, including a total ban on stretch limousines.
"All aspects of the Schoharie accident, in New York, are still under investigation, the NTSB is committed to determining the likely cause, with the aim of formulating safety recommendations to avoid similar accidents, "says the report. "We work in partnership with the New York State Police, Supervisory Agencies, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Ford Motor Company."
In her absence, Schoharie County prosecutor Susan Mallery was criticized by the NTSB for preventing her investigators from examining the sinking of the limousine, currently stored at the Latham State Police Station. This dispute was resolved last month when a judge negotiated an agreement giving the NTSB limited access to the vehicle.
Mallery insisted that his only motivation was to make sure the NTSB's work did not prevent him from suing Nauman Hussain, the son of Shahed Hussain, owner of Prestige Limousine. The young Hussain was accused of homicide by negligence, but declared his innocence.
When asked why the Schoharie County Attorney was not mentioned in the preliminary report, Weiss simply replied, "This is our investigation".
The NTSB closed the report noting that "updates to the survey will be provided as more information is developed".
Dominique Penson, a transport accident lawyer at Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson, who had pleaded for a bus accident in New York City that killed 15 people, was surprised that the NTSB issued a report not containing virtually no new information more than four months after the Schoharie accident.
"It repeats what everyone knew on the first day," said Penson. "It's like a holdover report – we're putting together a little something."
Penson was surprised that the report speaks little about the interior of the car and nothing of the driver's condition. He added that the only way the company and its owner would be acquitted in a criminal case would be that the driver undergoes a medical event, such as a heart attack, without notice.
The information contained in the NTSB reports can be used in criminal but not civil cases, he noted.
"If their reports could be used in civil cases, this could create a chilling effect on companies and their willingness to cooperate with investigations, which are in the interest of the many," said Penson.
Nevertheless, he said, "Civil law lawyers review and analyze reports (NTSBs) for their own investigations, and once you have information, your own investigators can generate them again."
Penson said the victims' families had two years to file a civil complaint in the event of wrongful death. He added that if he pleaded, he would wait for the full NTSB report before filing it.
"You want to see what this report says, because it will be the gospel," he said.
Albany's lawyer, Sal Ferlazzo, who represents the family of victim Amanda Rivenburg in a civil lawsuit against the limousine company and its owners, said he had read nothing in the NTSB report that sheds new light on the accident.
"That did not seem like much of a relationship," Ferlazzo said. "Obviously, it's very preliminary, I do not even know why it was published with such basic information.This really does not move the needle a lot.Hope that a more comprehensive analysis will be once more information has been shared. "
Invited to comment on the NTSB's preliminary report, DOT and DMV issued a joint statement to the Times Union.
"As stated in the NTSB's preliminary report, all aspects of the Schoharie accident remain under investigation," reads one. "Given the ongoing litigation, as well as the ongoing criminal investigation in which one of the homeowners was charged with homicide by criminal negligence, it would be inappropriate to comment further for the purpose." ; moment. "
here is the NTSB preliminary report in its entirety:
At approximately 13:55 On Saturday, October 6, 2018, at Eastern Daylight Time, an extended limousine Ford Excursion 2001, operated by Prestige Limousine, was traveling south on Highway 30 in the State of New York (NY-30) at the intersection of Highway 30A (NY-30A of New York State). ) at Schoharie, Schoharie County, New York. Both roads meet at a T-intersection, where the maximum speed is 55 mph. Traffic at the intersection (NY-30 and NY-30A) is controlled by a stop sign and vehicles using the NY-30 must turn right or left. The limousine was occupied by a 53-year-old driver and 17 passengers. The limousine was rented for a private party to transport passengers from Amsterdam (New York) to Cooperstown (New York), with stops between the two places. The limousine did not stop at the intersection as required; instead, he crossed the NY-30A and entered a restaurant car park on the south side of the roadway. A witness in a vehicle who was stopped at the intersection on NY-30 said that the limousine was crossing the intersection at a high speed. The limousine collided with a 2015 Toyota Highlander SUV in the parking lot. At the time of impact, three people were approaching the sport utility vehicle. The impact of the limousine with the sport utility vehicle then forced the SUV to hit and kill two of the approaching pedestrians. The limo continued to cross the car park and entered a ravine, where it collided with the earth embankment on the other side and was immobilized. (See Figures 1 and 2.) As a result of the accident, 20 people were killed, including 2 pedestrians approaching their parked vehicle and the 18 occupants of the limousine.
The original 137-inch wheelbase of the 2001 Ford Excursion had been extended 180 inches to bring the seating capacity to 18 people (including driver). To accommodate additional passenger capacity, non-OEM seats (original equipment manufacturer) have been installed in the vehicle. These non-OEM seats were equipped with lap sashes and allowed passengers to move away from the traditional front-facing seating configuration. In addition, the increase in passenger capacity of the vehicle required limousine passenger operations to be regulated by the New York State Department of Transportation. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continues to gather information on vehicle modifications and mechanical condition, seat belt use and passenger survivability, and monitoring of transport operations of passengers by the New York Department of Transportation. Motor Vehicle Department of the State of New York.
All aspects of the Schoharie crash (New York) are still under investigation, with the NTSB focusing on determining the likely cause, with the goal of making safety recommendations to prevent similar collisions. We work in partnership with the New York State Police, Supervisory Agencies, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Ford Motor Company. Updates to the survey will be provided as information develops.
Note: This story has been corrected to show that the statute of limitations for wrongful claims is two years, not three years.