Limousine involved in crash that killed 20 was owned by company that repeatedly failed motor vehicle inspections

The road leading to the intersection where a limousine crashed outside the Apple Barrel Country Store in Schoharie, New York, on Oct 7, 2018.
The road leading to the intersection where a limousine crashed outside the Apple Barrel Country Store in Schoharie, New York, on Oct 7, 2018.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - The company that provided the limousine that crashed in upstate New York on Saturday (Oct 7), killing 20 people, had repeatedly failed motor vehicle inspections, according to federal transportation records.

And one victim expressed concerns about the limousine's safety in a text sent shortly before the crash, relatives and friends said.

One friend said she got a text from one of the victims, Ms Erin McGowan, telling her that a party bus that was supposed to pick up the group of friends to take them to a brewery had broken down on the way there.

Instead, the group obtained a stretch limousine, which was in shoddy condition, Ms McGowan told her friend, using a profanity to describe the vehicle.

The friend, Ms Melissa Healey, 33, shared the texts with The New York Times.

"The motor is making everyone deaf," wrote Ms McGowan, before Ms Healey asked from where they rented the car.

The company that rented the vehicle was Prestige Limousine, a small company doing business out of Gansevoort, New York, a town north of Albany, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation.

 
 
 

A review of federal transportation records show that the company, which had three vehicles, had failed inspections, though the records did not provide details about the failures.

A phone number listed for the company on the federal records was disconnected on Monday.

The driver in Saturday's accident had still not been officially identified on Monday, even as investigators continue to search for clues as to what caused the 2001 Ford Excursion limousine to speed down a rural highway, through a stop sign and into an unoccupied car, killing 17 friends in the vehicle who were on their way to celebrate a birthday party.

Two pedestrians were also killed in the crash in the small town of Schoharie, New York, where the accident occurred.

The intersection where the accident occurred, about 64km west of Albany, was known among residents as being notoriously dangerous: a tricky T-shape, where east-west traffic often sped by in excess of the posted 80kmh speed limit.

According to New York State Police, limousine drivers are required to wear a seat belt, but passengers who are often riding in open spaces in the back are not.