SCHOHARIE — The National Transportation Safety Board will hold a hearing for Sept. 29 in Washington, D.C., to discuss and vote on recommendation from the federal agency’s investigation into the 2018 Schoharie limousine crash that killed 20 people.
In a release on Thursday, the agency announced that it will “vote on findings, probable cause and recommendations, as well as any changes to the draft final report.”
The hearing will be held virtually, and will be webcast to the public starting at 9:30 a.m. that morning. NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt, who visited Schoharie immediately after the crash, will also hold a media briefing later that day.
The federal NTSB investigation has been going on since immediately after the Oct. 6, 2018 crash at the intersection of state routes 30 and 30A in Schoharie. It has taken place mostly quietly as state criminal investigations have gone forward and state and federal legislators have pushed for limousine safety changes. Agency officials expected their investigation to take from 18 months to two years.
In an interim report last October, the NTSB released draft safety recommendations that included seat-belt upgrades in limousines and a suggestion that New York state law require backseat passengers to wear seat belts. The state Legislature approved the passenger seat-belt requirement in January.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, however, has so far refused to adopt the national seat belt and seat safety recommendations made by the NTSB, with an NHTSA administrator saying they wouldn’t have made a difference in such a high-impact crash.
None of the 17 passengers in the stretched 2001 Ford Excursion were wearing seat belts, the interim report found — but it also found that the lap belts in the limo weren’t properly designed and were inaccessible to the passengers.
The crash killed all the passengers, the driver, and two pedestrians in the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country store.
Prosecutors have alleged the limousine suffered catastrophic brake failure coming down a hill due to poor maintenance. Limo company operator Nauman Hussain, 30, faces 20 counts each of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in Schoharie County Court. His trial is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with discussions underway about a possible plea bargain in the case.
The passengers were all young adults on their way to a weekend birthday celebration in Cooperstown.
Families of the victims have filed numerous lawsuits against Hussain, his father and uncle as owners or purported investors in the limousine company, and Mavis Discount Tire, which is accused of inadequately servicing the limousine. Some lawsuits have also been filed against the state departments of Transportation and Motor Vehicles, alleging regulatory failures.