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Limousine in Deadly Crash Was Already Deemed Unsafe and Driver Was Unlicensed
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9 Oct 2018 10:52 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Scene of the crash (Image source: Screenshot)

 

There can't be anything that would make a crash that kills 20 people worse, but making it definitely more distasteful is the news that the driver wasn't licensed, the limousine involved had failed an inspection, and the company had ties to an illegal licensing scheme. Additionally, the owner is a possible former FBI informant.

 

The white stretch limousine was carrying 17 people on their way to a birthday party at a brewery on Saturday. The vehicle approached a two-highway intersection and lost control, hitting an empty car.  

The 17 friends and family all died, as did the driver, and two pedestrians were killed as well, in Schohairie, New York, 40 miles west of Albany.

 

The limousine company, Prestige Limousine, didn't have a good record to begin with, did business out of a hotel, and the owner has a questionable history with the feds.  

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the limo involved in the crash had failed an inspection just last month and that it "was not supposed to be on the road."

 

Shahed Hussain, the owner of Prestige, shares the same name and address as that of a former FBI informant who has testified in two terrorism cases, according to public records. A law enforcement official believes the company may be operated by his son, and a statement by a law enforcement official confirmed police interviewed one of Hussain's sons. 

Hussain was charged in 2002 with a making money by illegally helping people in Albany get driver's licenses and became an FBI informant after that.

 

Just before the crash, one of the victims sent a text message saying she was worried about the condition of the limo. Investigators believe the company's questionable past that includes several failed vehicle inspections and the company's owners could have contributed to the fatal crash. 

On Monday Prestige issued a statement expressing their condolences to the families of those who passed away. "We are performing a detailed internal investigation to determine the cause of the accident," read the statement.

 

They added that they have already voluntarily taken all their vehicles off the road and said, "We have already met with state and federal investigators and plan to do so again." 

The driver has not been identified, but social media posts from family members say it was Scott Lisinicchia, 53. Cuomo stated the driver "did not have the appropriate driver's license to be operating that vehicle."

 

Federal officials have said the accident is the worst transportation-related accident in the U.S. since a 2009 plane cash killed 50 people outside of Buffalo. 

Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said in a briefing that his agency's investigation was focused on mechanical and human causes for the accident that caused extensive damage to the front and left side of the 2001 Ford Excursion limousine.

 

He suggests the engine has been thrust backward into the driver's compartment and that the evidence indicates a "high-energy impact." He did not say whether the car had been speeding, and there were no skid marks leading to the site of the crash. 

"That company and that vehicle have been under scrutiny" in the past, declared Maj. Robert Patnaude of the New York State Police, adding that Hussain could face criminal charges. "That will be part of our investigation."

 

Autopsies of the victims will be included as well. The 17 were comprised of four sisters and two brothers, and other relatives and friends.  

A friend of one of the victims received a text message stating that they were supposed to take a party bus, but it broke down on the way to pick them up, so the stretch limo was sent instead, and she felt it was in shoddy condition. She also stated that "the motor is making everyone deaf."

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