Limo in Crash That Killed 20 Had Recently Failed Inspection and Driver Was Unlicensed: Governor
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the limousine in a crash that killed 20 on Saturday recently failed an inspection and the driver was not properly licensed
With details still emerging about the nature of a crash this weekend in upstate New York that killed 20 people, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Monday that the limousine involved recently failed an inspection — and the driver was not properly licensed to operate the vehicle.
Cuomo named the company that rented the limo as Prestige Limousine, in Gansevoort, New York, according to the New York Times. He spoke with the media about the crash while attending a Columbus Day parade in New York City, Newsday reports.
Prestige has been ordered to stop operating pending an investigation, Cuomo said, according to Newsday.
“The owner of the company had no business putting a failed vehicle on the road,” the governor said, according to Newsday and NBC News.
He said the limo was inspected in September but failed, the Times reports. The limo “was not supposed to be on the road,” Cuomo said.
Prestige did not respond to PEOPLE’s requests for comment. A spokesperson told Today, however, that they were “devastated” by the deaths but could not comment further as the owner was not in the country.
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Not long before the crash, one of the passengers had complained to a friend, the Times reports, citing text messages between them. “The motor is making everyone deaf,” Eric McGowan wrote.
The driver, identified by officials as 53-year-old Scott Lisnicchia, did not have a commercial driver’s license with a passenger endorsement, as required by state law, Cuomo said, according to NBC News and the Times.
The limo, a 2001 Ford Excursion, was “chopped” and elongated and was subject to federal review that it was legal, Cuomo said, according to NBC News. However, it did not have such approval.
The Saturday afternoon crash — the deadliest transportation-related incident in the United States in nine years — is reportedly being investigated by both law enforcement and the National Transportation Safety Board.
Cuomo told reporters on Monday that the exact cause remains unclear, such as whether it was the driver’s mistake, some kind of mechanical issue or a combination of both.
Authorities have said the limo failed to stop as it reached a T-intersection where two state highways met in Schoharie. Instead the vehicle plowed into the parking lot of an adjacent business, striking a vehicle there which killed two pedestrians.
All 18 people in the limo, including the driver, were killed. The passengers were close friends, relatives and couples. They had hired the vehicle as part of their birthday celebrations for passenger Amy Steenburg.
Aunt Barbara Doulgas told NBC: “I don’t know how to say it. Can’t wrap your head around such a tragedy where you have four of your daughters die.”
Valerie Abeling, aunt of victim Erin McGowan, echoed that to the Washington Post.
“It’s tragic. Horrible. I can’t even begin to even explain,” she said. “Our lives have been changed forever.”
• Reporting by CAITLIN KEATING