The New York State Inspector General sharply criticized two state agencies for a lack of oversight in connection with the horrific limousine crash that killed 20 in Schoharie four years ago.
A report issued Friday by Inspector General Lucy Lang said the Department of Transportation and Department of Motor Vehicles failed to do all they could to get the limo off the road long before the crash.
The Inspector General’s report agrees with the 2020 National Transportation Safety Board report that “Cited deficiencies in DMV’s vehicle registration process and DOT’s ineffective oversight of the limousine as having allowed its owner to skirt safety requirements and evade more rigorous inspection requirements while continuing to operate the vehicle.”
In particular, the owner of the limo, Prestige Limousine, listed the vehicle’s capacity at less than 15 passengers, which would have exempted it from DOT inspections.
There were 17 passengers and a driver when the limo streaked down steep Route 30 at more than 100 mph and slammed into a ravine near the Apple Barrel. Two pedestrians were also killed.
The report also stated Prestige took other steps to avoid safety regulations.
The two departments didn’t identify problems with the vehicle’s registration, and DOT didn’t take steps to seize the limo’s plates, according to the report.
There were “significant gaps in policies, procedures and interagency communications” that kept Prestige Limousine’s misconduct from being acted upon.
“Egregious actors who repeatedly flout DOT’s regulations, such as prestige, must be matched with a more urgent response,” the report said.
Although the report criticizes the two departments, it did not find evidence of misconduct by the departments’ employees.
DMV accepted the Inspector General’s report, but DOT Commisioner Marie Therese Dominguez disagreed, writing in a letter that there was no process in place at the time to immediately seize the limo’s plates.
Since the crash, the state has strengthened regulations to improve limo safety.
Naumann Hussain, who operated Prestige at the time of the accident, faces 20 counts each of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. His trial is set for May.