U.S. board cites limo firm in deadly crash with 'egregious disregard for safety'

Sept 29 (Reuters) - The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Tuesday cited a limousine company’s “egregious disregard for safety” in an October 2018 New York crash that killed 20 people, the deadliest U.S. transportation incident in a decade.

The safety board also cited the vehicle’s poorly maintained brakes in the Schoharie, New York, crash that killed the driver, 17 passengers and two pedestrians.

The limousine, carrying passengers on their way to a birthday party, ran a stop sign at a highway intersection at more than 100 miles per hour (161 kph) and crashed into an unoccupied parked vehicle and two pedestrians before coming to a halt in a shallow ravine. Investigators determined the driver likely applied the brakes.

“Knowing this tragedy could have been prevented on numerous occasions, by those who are entrusted to protect us, makes this crash even more heartbreaking,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.

The NTSB also cited as a contributing factor New York regulators’ “ineffective oversight” of Prestige Limousine and the state’s “inadequate repair verification process.”

The New York Transportation and Motor Vehicles departments in a joint statement said the NTSB “findings clearly demonstrate the shocking extremes to which the owners of Prestige went to break the law and falsify state and federal compliance records.”

The agencies said they had “ordered that vehicle off the road multiple times, but as NTSB’s own reports on this crash reaffirm, Prestige repeatedly violated New York State law and was never authorized at any time to operate for-hire commercial passenger vehicle service in the state.”

Prosecutors in New York charged Nauman Hussain, who ran Prestige at the time of the crash, with criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter. He is awaiting trial.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation in February to require all stretch limousines to have seat belts, and that defective limousines be immobilized and penalties for illegal U-turns increased.

The seatbelt requirements take effect for newly reconfigured limousines in 2021 and existing limousines in New York must be retrofitted with seatbelts by 2023.

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington Editing by Matthew Lewis