Inspector cites regulatory shortcomings in fatal New York limousine accident | Economic news

ALBANY, NY (AP) — New York regulators failed to do all they could to shelve a poorly maintained stretch limo that rolled down a hill and crashed in 2018, killing 20 people, according to a state watchdog.

State Inspector General Lucy Lang released a report late Friday echoing federal regulators who concluded in 2020 that the Department of Transportation and Department of Motor Vehicles failed to monitor the limo, which ended crashed into a shallow ravine west of Albany, New York on October 6, 2018.

The operator, Prestige, repeatedly changed the number of seats listed in the 2001 Ford Excursion limousine and took other steps to circumvent safety rules, government officials said.

The inspector’s report says that while the office found no evidence of misconduct or wrongdoing by employees of the two agencies, it found “significant deficiencies in policies, procedures and communications interagency” that prevented the misconduct of the limousine operator from being quickly identified and addressed.

The inspector said regulators missed opportunities to identify problems with the limo’s registration and that the transportation department failed to take all available steps to have the vehicle’s license plates seized.

“Egregious actors who repeatedly flout DOT regulations, such as Prestige, need a more urgent response,” according to the report.

The Department of Transportation strongly disagreed with some of the report’s assertions, including the conclusion that it could have unilaterally initiated a process to seize plates, said agency commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez.

The agencies accepted the report’s policy recommendations to increase limousine safety.

Axel Steenburg had rented the limo for his new wife’s 30th birthday. Seventeen family members and friends were killed when the limo crashed, along with the driver and two passers-by outside a country store.

The National Transportation Safety Board in 2020 found the accident was likely caused by Prestige’s “blatant disregard for safety” which led to brake failure on a long downhill stretch of road and ineffective supervision of the vehicle. state contributed to it.

Prestige operator Nauman Hussain will stand trial next spring on 20 counts each of criminally negligent homicide and second-degree manslaughter. A judge recently rejected a plea deal that would have allowed him to avoid serving a prison sentence.

Hussain’s attorneys say he tried to service the limo and relied on what he was told by state officials and a repair shop that inspected it.

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