ALBANY, N.Y. – State regulators repeatedly failed to properly oversee a poorly maintained stretch limousine with corroded brakes that hurtled down a hill at more than 100 mph (160 kph) and crashed in a ravine, killing 20 people, federal investigators said Tuesday.
National Transportation Safety Board members unanimously voted to accept a final report that found widespread fault in the 2018 crash in upstate New York.
The NTSB found that the crash was likely caused by Prestige Limousine's “egregious disregard for safety” that resulted in brake failure on a long downhill stretch of road and that ineffective state oversight contributed.
NTSB Chairperson Robert Sumwalt also criticized the local prosecutor and state police for what he said was a lack of cooperation with the agency's crash investigation.
The crash killed 17 family members and friends, including four sisters and three of their husbands, along with the driver and two bystanders outside a country store. It was the deadliest transportation disaster in the United States in a decade.
“Seventeen young people made the smart, safe decision to arrange for sober transportation when celebrating,” board member Michael Graham said during an online hearing. “They put their trust and safety into system designed to protect them, and it failed.”
Lee Kindlon, a lawyer for Prestige operator Nauman Hussain, said his client tried to maintain the limousine and relied on what he was told by state officials and a repair shop that inspected it.
Staff members told the board that the brake system was corroded and that a brake line was crimped, which would have restricted the fluid flowing to the right rear brake. Parts of the line were coated in brake fluid, indicating a leak.