The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is set to hold a hearing on Sept. 29, in Washington, D.C., to discuss and vote on recommendations from its investigation into the 2018 Schoharie limo crash that killed 20 people. In August, the NTSB said it will “vote on findings, probable cause and recommendations, as well as any changes to the draft final report.” The hearing will be held via webcast, starting at 9:30am. 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 ongoing since the Oct. 6, 2018 crash at the intersection of state routes 30 and 30A in Schoharie. State and federal legislators have pushed for changes to limousine safety laws as a result. An interim report from the NTSB included suggested seat-belt upgrades in limousines and asked 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 (NHTSA) has so far refused to adopt the NTSB’s national seat belt and seat safety recommendations, claiming they wouldn’t have helped 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, who were all young adults on their way to a weekend birthday celebration in Cooperstown.

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 pandemic, with discussions underway about a possible plea bargain.

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 vehicle. Some lawsuits have also been filed against the state departments of Transportation and Motor Vehicles, alleging regulatory failures.

Source: The Daily Gazette

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