The tragic crash of a limousine in upstate New York that resulted in the death of all 18 of its occupants as well as two pedestrians made national news in October of 2018. The case was made all the more tragic by the fact that county prosecutors, the state police and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB ) were unable to coordinate their respective jurisdiction in investigating the matter.
The general details of the crash are that the driver lost control of the vehicle while going down a hill. The limo went through a stop sign, through cross traffic and a parking lot (where the pedestrians died) before coming to a stop on an embankment. It was the deadliest motor vehicle accident in the United States since 2005. It is presumed that the brakes on the after-market-modified Ford Excursion limousine failed.
According to a recent report, a judge has now cleared the way for the NTSB to formally begin its investigation. Normally this would be done in the days following the October 6 crash with a report issued a few weeks later, but the four-month gap will likely mean that evidence has been compromised.
Many red flags for the limo
There have been reports that there were many problems with the vehicle. The 2001 model’s modification was poorly designed and the limo was improperly maintained by the owner, who is facing charges of criminally negligent homicide. The two biggest issues are:
Failed inspections: The Excursion’s modifications classified in a specific class where it needed to pass inspection by the Department of Transportation. It failed that test on grounds of its stock brakes were overburdened by the increased size and additional weight of more passengers. Despite failing the inspection, it was on the road.
The after-market modification: The limousine was “stretched” from its normal 137-inch wheelbase to 180 inches. This enabled the vehicle to seat 18 (including driver) and the seats were not front-facing as they were in the original design.
NTSB releases a preliminary report
In part, it reads: “The National Transportation Safety Board continues to gather information on the modifications and mechanical condition of the vehicle, the seat belt usage and survivability of the passengers, and the oversight of the passenger-carrying operation of the New York State Department of Transportation and New York State Department of Motor Vehicle.”
Negligent parties need to be held accountable
It is now commonplace for individuals to hire a car service and groups to ride in larger modified vehicles. There are still many questions to ask regarding the liability of the negligent parties. Moreover, transportation safety advocates are campaigning to have Congress tighten some loopholes in the regulations involving after market modifications of vehicles. Of course, this little consolation to the victims’ families, but many have already contacted personal injury lawyers to hold the negligent parties accountable.