Upstate Limo Disaster – Governor “the worst traffic accidents in the history of the state of New York”
Governor Cuomo: Sad news, we had a terrible traffic fatality in the Capital Region. Over 20 people deceased. It’s one of the worst traffic accidents in the history of the state of New York. It is really tragic. It reminds us all that every day is precious. We take it for granted. You leave the house in the morning and sometimes you’ll never see your loved ones again. So first, our thoughts and prayers are with all those grieving parents, friends, relatives in this horrendous accident. There’s an ongoing investigation by both the federal government and the State Police. The updates we have thus far are—number one—the driver of the vehicle, the quote, unquote limousine, did not have the appropriate driver’s license to be operating that vehicle. Second, that vehicle was inspected by the New York State Department of Transportation last month and failed inspection and was not supposed to be on the road. We don’t yet know the cause of the accident—if it was a vehicle malfunction, if it was a driver malfunction, a driver error. That’s part of the ongoing investigation between the NTSB and the State Police. The name of the company was Prestige Limousine. We’re doing a cease and desist order to stop Prestige Limousine from operating until the investigation is concluded. But that’s what we know so far, and the investigation is ongoing.
Question: Governor, after the 2015 crash on Long Island involving a limousine and bridesmaids, I know [inaudible] made a recommendation for a state panel to look into limousine safety, is that something you’ll reconsider now given this accident?
Governor Cuomo: We have, the federal government has the primary set of regulations for limousines, buses, etc. They basically fall under the bus regulatory system, which is the federal system. I don’t know that this is a situation where we can find a new law or a new regulation. You know, the instinct is always we need a new law, we need a new regulation. Sometimes the issue is the law worked fined, and the regulation worked fine, they were just broken. Here the law was the driver needed what’s called a CDL, commercial driver’s license, with a passenger endorsement. The driver did not have that proper license. The law here was you need your vehicle to pass inspection. And this vehicle was inspected just last month and it failed inspection. The owner of the company in my opinion, because there’ll be legal consequences, but the owner of the company had no business putting a failed vehicle on the road. So we’ll go through the whole situation, but sometimes we have the laws, we have the regulations, they’re broken.
Reporter: [Inaudible] speed in the crash why the vehicle failed inspection?
Governor Cuomo: The vehicle failed physical inspection. First of all, when you have a stretch vehicle, what they call a chopped vehicle, which is what this limousine was. This was a Ford that was cut and extended. When that vehicle is constructed, it’s supposed to have a federal certification as to the manufacturer of that vehicle. This vehicle did not have that certification that it was extended in a way that was compliant with federal law. Secondly, the on-site inspection they did, in terms of vehicle systems, suspension system, Chassis system, braking system, it also failed those checks. So it didn’t have the federal certification, and it failed the safety test that was done just last month. Right? So sometimes you say, “Well maybe we should inspect more frequently, maybe this, maybe this, maybe this.” Sometimes people just don’t follow the law. And that may very well be what happened here. The vehicle was inspected last month, failed inspection, it’s not supposed to be on the road. The driver did not have the appropriate license. Those are very clear laws and regulations.
Governor Cuomo: We don’t know anything about speed yet.
Question: The owner of the limo company, is there any criminal background there? And to be clear was there a task force set up following the last fatal limousine accident?
Governor Cuomo: There was no specific task—I don’t know if there was a task force set up, but there are federal regulations. The federal government certifies that the vehicle was constructed appropriately. This vehicle never had that certification, so it violated the federal process. The state then inspects the vehicle. We inspected the vehicle just last month, it failed the inspection. The driver did not have the appropriate license. So I think the owner of this company, the owner of Prestige has a lot of questions to answer. There’s an ongoing investigation. But is there a possibility of liability? Civil and Criminal? Certainly.