Feds to ex­am­ine limo 3 months af­ter wreck

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - News - ByMary Esch

AL­BANY, N.Y. (AP) >> Some fed­eral em­ploy­ees fur­loughed un­der the gov­ern­ment shut­down may be re­called to start ex­am­in­ing a limou­sine that crashed in ru­ral up­state New York three months ago, killing 20 peo­ple, the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board said Thurs­day.

An NTSB state­ment said with the help of the county court, the agency is co­or­di­nat­ing in­ves­tiga­tive ef­forts into the Oct. 6 crash with the Schoharie County Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice and New York State Po­lice. The fed­eral agency had com­plained last month that pros­e­cu­tors pre­vented ac- cess while a crim­i­nal case against the limou­sine com­pany’s op­er­a­tor pro­ceeded.

On Dec. 14, the NTSB sent a let­ter to Dis­trict At­tor­ney Su­sanMallery say­ing “safe­ty­crit­i­cal ev­i­dence” had been lost be­cause of its in­abil­ity to in­spect the ve­hi­cle that crashed in ru­ral Schoharie. It said fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors may no longer be able to eval­u­ate cor­ro­sion, which is crit­i­cal when ex­am­in­ing the brakes, or the sta­tus of the ve­hi­cle’s elec­tri­cal sys­temat the time of the crash.

NTSB spokeswom­anDolline Hatchett said Thurs­day that pros­e­cu­tors had been pre­vent­ing ac­cess be­cause the search war­rant for the ve­hi­cle didn’t ex­plic­itly in­clude the fed­eral agency. A Schoharie County judge ruled Wed­nes­day that NTSB’s statu­tory au­thor­ity grants it ac­cess, Hatchett said. The war­rant will be re­vised to make that clear be­fore NTSB in­spec­tors are given ac­cess to the limo and other ev­i­dence, she said.

Mallery’s of­fice de­clined to com­ment on Thurs­day.

The NTSB said Thurs­day that in prepa­ra­tion for its ex­am­i­na­tion, it is hav­ing a struc­ture built to house the ve­hi­cle at State Po­lice head­quar­ters near Al­bany, where it’s now in­side a tent.

“I am en­cour­aged that the NTSB and Schoharie County DA have reached a so­lu­tion al­low­ing them to work to­gether so that this ur­gent in­ves­ti­ga­tion can pro­ceed,” Rep. Paul Tonko said in a state­ment Thurs- day. “I re­main trou­bled that the pres­i­dent has shut down the agency re­spon­si­ble for bring­ing the truth to light in this case.”

The limou­sine com­pany’s op­er­a­tor, Nau­man Hus­sain, has pleaded not guilty to crim­i­nally neg­li­gent homi­cide and is free on bail. Pros­e­cu­tors al­lege he al­lowed an im­prop­erly li­censed driver to op­er­ate an “un­ser­vice­able” ve­hi­cle.

The crash was the na­tion’s dead­li­est trans­porta­tion wreck in nearly a decade. The ve­hi­cle blew through a stop sign at a Tin­ter­sec­tion and crashed in a shal­low ditch be­side a coun­try store, killing the driver, 17 pas­sen­gers on a birth­day out­ing, and two pedes­tri­ans.

TOM HEF­FER­NAN SR.—AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this Oct. 6, 2018, file photo, a limou­sine, left, has landed in the woods fol­low­ing a fa­tal crash in Schoharie, N.Y. The Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board said on Thurs­day, Jan. 10, 2019, that some fed­eral em­ploy­ees fur­loughed un­der the gov­ern­ment shut­down may be re­called to start ex­am­in­ing the limou­sine that crashed in ru­ral up­state New York, killing 20peo­ple.

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