NTSB releases report on Schoharie limousine crash; Trial date adjourned till March 9

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SCHOHARIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The National Transportation Safety Board released its safety recommendation report Wednesday on the October 6, 2018 limousine crash that killed 20 people in Schoharie. The trial date for limo operator Nauman Hussain has now also been pushed back to March 9, 2020.

The report details a number of findings primarily related to passenger safety and the lap/seat belt effectiveness of the stretch limo involved in the crash.

The NTSB found that while the crash was not survivable for the limo’s driver, the non-original seat and lap belts in the modified passenger compartment portion of the stretch limo were not properly designed for crash protection.

Top image shows side view postcrash 3D image of the limousine with an overlaid reconstruction of the vehicle’s precrash structure. Bottom image shows overhead view of postcrash 3D image of the limousine with an overlaid reconstruction of the vehicle’s precrash structure. (SOURCE: NTSB)

Following its findings, the NTSB report makes a number of recommendations to improve limo passenger safety in the future. The NTSB says lap/shoulder belt combinations provide greater protection than lap belts alone and should be installed as standard equipment in all limousines. The NTSB also stressed that seat belts must be easily accessible for passengers. If they are difficult to locate or use, passengers are less likely to use them, the NTSB says.

The NTSB’s recommendations include:

To the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • Require lap/shoulder belts for each passenger seating position on all new vehicles modified to be used as limousines. (H-19-14)
  • Require that seating systems installed in new vehicles modified to be used as limousines meet minimum performance standards to ensure their integrity during a crash. (H-19-15)

To the New York State Department of Transportation:

  • As an addition to your regular state inspection process, ensure that seat belts are functional and accessible in all limousines in the state equipped with passenger seat belts. (H-19-16)

To the National Limousine Association:

  • Educate member limousine operators on the life-saving benefits of proper seat belt use, and recommend that they develop methods to (1) ensure that seat belts are functional and accessible to the passengers and (2) encourage passengers to use them. (H-19-17)

The NTSB also reiterated its recommendation that New York State enact legislation requiring seat belt use for all vehicle seating positions equipped with them.

New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez released the following statement in response to the NTSB report:

Earlier today, the National Transportation Safety Board issued an interim report providing advisory recommendations on vehicle occupant protection. The recommendations were developed, in part, based on recent crashes that occurred in New Jersey, Illinois and New York, and most critically, reaffirmed the need for all occupants in any vehicle to wear seatbelts – a position advanced by Governor Cuomo and for which NYSDOT has advocated for the past several years. 
The NTSB recommended that New York incorporate the inspection of seatbelts for functionality and accessibility into the NYSDOT biannual vehicle inspection process — something that in fact has been standard protocol in our process since the early 1990s and are incorporated into the Code of Rules and Regulations for New York State.
The seatbelt requirement has been a top priority of this administration to ensure safety on our roads. This past January, as part of the State Budget, Governor Cuomo put forth strong legislation requiring that all occupants of all vehicles wear seatbelts – the third year in a row in which he called for strengthening the state’s seat belt laws. It is extremely unfortunate these important measures have been repeatedly rejected by the legislature. We urge all lawmakers to join this crucial public safety effort and finally pass the requirement into law during the next session.
NYSDOT looks forward to working with the NTSB as we continue to fight for stronger vehicle safety protections for all New Yorkers.

READ THE FULL REPORT: https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/HSR1902.pdf

Several area lawmakers released statements following the publication of the NTSB report. Read the statements below:

“The devastating limousine tragedy in Schoharie that took the lives of twenty New Yorkers has left an unfathomable heartbreak and a lasting scar on the Schoharie and Montgomery communities that has been felt each day since. The NTSB’s new safety recommendations have shown us that we can, and absolutely must, do more to close the fatal gaps in limo-safety standards that contributed decisively to this tragedy. I’m inspired by the families of these victims who have, in the midst of their unimaginable suffering, made it their mission to increase the safety of these vehicles before more lives are lost, and am going to stand by their side every step of the way. As our community continues to recover from this horrific accident, I’ll work hand-in-hand with the families and in a bi-partisan way with all of my New York Congressional colleagues to ensure the lives lost are never forgotten and that we spur the federal government to make meaningful safety reforms with all due speed.”

Senator Charles Schumer

“For nearly a year, our community has carried wounds of loss and mourning for those precious lives taken on a fateful October night. As we revisit our most painful memories of that night, I am encouraged to see this measure of progress in bringing to light the causes that contributed to this unspeakable tragedy. Today’s preliminary findings by the NTSB confirm what many of us have long-believed: the 20 souls lost to this tragedy were victims of a profoundly broken system that failed to establish or uphold even the most basic safety standards. Making matters worse, these findings show in heart-breaking fashion that incidents like this will continue to happen until we deal with America’s broken limousine safety standards and respond with clear, enforceable standards that close dangerous loopholes and make rider safety a priority. My colleagues and I remain committed to responding to this tragedy with a soulful expression of action that honors the families and all who have been scarred by this preventable tragedy.”

Rep. Paul Tonko

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