By on October 8, 2018

Image: Wikimedia

The deadliest U.S. transportation accident in the last decade occurred in upstate New York this weekend, but it didn’t involve a airliner, train, or bus. The vehicle in question was a modified 2001 Ford Excursion. All 18 occupants of the aging limo died after the vehicle failed to stop at an intersection, with two pedestrians struck and killed in the parking lot where the runaway vehicle ultimately came to rest.

In the vehicle was a group of young people, including many couples and relatives, who were headed to a birthday celebration. While limo operators are already subjected to federal oversight, the National Transportation Safety Board plans to probe existing regulations as part of its investigation.

According to media reports, the limo failed to stop at T-shaped intersection where Route 30 terminates at Route 30A. A hill and curve precedes the intersection, and eyewitnesses claim the Excursion approached the stop sign at a high rate of speed. It carried on across the roadway, through a ditch and some brush, and into the parking lot of a country store, where it struck a Toyota Highlander and the two pedestrians.

The intersection has been the site of numerous crashes over the years, but nothing like Saturday’s accident. Heavy truck traffic is no longer allowed to operate on that stretch of road.

In a report by the Washington Post, Schoharie Town Supervisor Alan Tavenner said witnesses claim the Excursion hit the intersection going about 60 miles per hour. While a cause for the tragedy has not yet been determined, there’s obvious theories to consider — either the vehicle’s driver failed to anticipate the upcoming intersection, the vehicle’s brakes were not operating properly, or a combination of both. The investigation has only just gotten underway.

Valerie Abeling, whose niece died in the crash and whose daughter was invited on the outing, but couldn’t attend, said her daughter recounted the group renting a bus that broke down before it could reach them. The limo was a backup plan, she said. Minutes before the crash, one of the victims texted her daughter to say, “The vehicle appeared in terrible condition.”

Speaking to CNN, NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said, “We certainly want to look at the regulation of limos. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration does oversee motor carriers so we want to see if the regulation for limousines is adequate.”

He added, “This does need to be a wake-up call.”

While Sumwalk didn’t outline the entirety of the investigation’s scope, he did say it would examine the lack of seatbelts in the back of the stretch limo.

[Image: Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

53 Comments on “NTSB Looking Into Limo Regulations in Wake of Deadly Crash...”


  • avatar
    indi500fan

    This is a crass comment but 18 out of 18 total killed? Statistically seems improbable. You’d think something with that much mass and velocity would just blow through most anything. Must have been something like a utility pole or guardrail or earth bank in the way to cause that much decel.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      17 year old limo. In western and upstate NY, you’d expect the thing to be falling apart due to rust and corrosion from winter salt. NY is an inspection state – wonder what its condition was (purported to be) at its last inspection. I was in Rochester a week ago, and while the condition of vehicles was nowhere near as bad as when I grew up there, even double side galvanized sheet metal has its limits. I saw a few newish vehicles with rusty fenders already. BOF takes longer, but will get there regardless.

    • 0 avatar
      210delray

      Even if the Excursion wasn’t rusty (and it likely was), all it takes is a stout tree for sufficient deceleration to kill everyone inside if seat belts weren’t being used, let alone being present at all in the rear seats.

      I understand the vehicle ended up in the woods next to the store, so it’s quite likely my scenario is true.

      It wasn’t uncommon before seat belts, airbags, and crumple zones for everyone involved in a crash to be killed. I recall a grisly crash that occurred in the summer of 1962 in my native Pittsburgh when 2 drunks in a ’56 Ford crossed over a narrow, barely raised median (without a barrier) on the Parkway East and crashed head-on into a ’56 Chevy wagon carrying a family of 6. Everyone died. Soon after that, a guardrail was installed on the median (this before Jersey barriers were invented).

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Which is why I find it really odd that school buses here in Oklahoma aren’t required to—and typically don’t—have seat belts.

        • 0 avatar
          RSF

          School busses are very different than a limo, or even a car or truck. They’re designed to compartmentalize the occupants and they are built extremely strong. However, all new school busses in Texas are now required to be equipped with safety belts. I suppose occupants may possibly be safer now, but can you imagine trying to get 72 passengers to buckle up and stay that way?

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            They can actually physically fit 72 seating positions in a bus with belts?! Color me shocked. I had always read into it that the reason bus mfrs. pushed compartmentalization was in part so that they could continue to promote the fantasy that a seat 39″ wide could adequately fit 3 passengers, even tiny kindergarteners, with all their stuff, and thus achieve Cap 72. I cannot recall a single time, even in the most crowded HS band trip, that anyone was ever asked to sit 3 to a seat.

    • 0 avatar
      paxman356

      It looks like one survived, but died en route to the hospital. A little more information including an overhead of the crash is in the link below:

      https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/nyregion/wedding-limo-crash-schoharie-ny.html?action=click&module=MoreInSection&pgtype=Article&region=Footer&contentCollection=New%20York

    • 0 avatar
      DedBull

      Looking at the photos from various sources, it appears the vehicle came to rest in a fairly deep drainage ditch/stream bed. While the sides weren’t unusually steep for what it is, it appears the vehicle nosed in and came to a stop when it could not climb the other side of the embankment. Had the other side of this road been an open cornfield, this probably would have only been a local story on how far into the field it went before it stopped.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      I wouldn’t hold up a *new* super duper stretch 2001 Excursion as a prime example of structural integrity. The regular versions did well enough for themselves in contemporary crash testing and in real world crashes (usually in the latter because they were massive compared to nearly all the other vehicles on the road). But cut the thing in half, stretch it out to many times its length, keep the front structure basically the same? Crashing a limo, head on into an immovable object like the bottom of a ravine, that’s asking the impossible of automotive safety engineering. Structurally, it’s sorta like what happens when you stand on a tallboy beer can. If you built a stretch limo strong enough for that then it would probably weigh more than a dump truck.

    • 0 avatar
      namesakeone

      Limousine occupants often do not wear seatbelts. If the driver wasn’t wearing his either, that could easily account for the 18 deaths. (Any Red Wings fan probably remembers that Vladimir Konstantinov and Sergei Mnatsakanov were critically injured in a limousine crash as well.)

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    What does the Highlander look like after being struck by the limo?

    I’m just curious because it would be interesting to see what a properly engineered vehicle looked like after being struck by the limo.

    If we got rid of these hack jobs and made it be factory stretches (like when limos actually had a little elegance to them) certainly there would be greater safety.

    • 0 avatar
      mason

      Regardless of who does the conversion, wouldn’t it be subjected to an inspection through the Highway Patrol before it could be titled and registered?

      Seems like a thing such as enough seatbelts would be one of the most basic inspection points.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        NYS has annual inspections, but quality is likely to vary. I am a recent refugee from from RI. Inspections are done by local garages – you know, the ones you might give a lot of business to year in and year out, unlike the state itself. The TUV it ain’t. Years ago, NYS was the same – inspection stations licensed by the DMV.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Inspections are done by local garages…

          So if the limo company had its own repair facility could it get licensed to do it’s own inspections? (Just wondering how fast and loose things could be.)

          • 0 avatar
            DedBull

            Here in Pennsylvania, it is typical for most fleet operators to maintain an inspection license with licensed inspection technicians on site. I do not know the NYS regulations, but I would assume if this limo was from a company with more than a handful of vehicles,it is likely that the vehicle safety inspection was done in house.

        • 0 avatar
          mason

          I mean the initial inspection to get it retitled as a limo. I can’t imagine you could legally stretch a vehicle like this, adding to the GVW significantly, and be able to retain the OEM title. It seems as though it should have a rebranded title for registration and insurance purposes, I’m pretty certain in Ohio you must go through a Highway Patrol post for this. The same as a salvage title.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            The police doing the inspection doesn’t mean anything other than the lights and horn worked when the cop did his check. He’s not an engineer doing structural testing.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Apparently the vehicle in question was inspected, failed, and was on the road anyway.

        Jail time for EVERYONE culpable here.

    • 0 avatar
      RSF

      And I can only imagine how much of a rusty bucket a 17 year old Excursion from New York was.

  • avatar
    Rnaboz

    the only way seatbelts would have helped in the party bus was if the driver could be fined $500 per person, paid immediately or you get towed. Nobody on the party bus is going to put on a seatbelt.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    It sounds to me like the brakes failed at a particularly bad time and place, with 18 people impacted.

    It’s very tragic and sad.

    But I think it’s a miracle these things don’t happen more often, and a credit to manufacturers as well as the roads and drivers that they are so rare (thankfully!).

    I’m not sure more regulation will ‘save lives’. especially if NY State already has safety inspections in place.

  • avatar
    DedBull

    While the vehicle is 17 years old, I wouldn’t expect it to be as rusty as a typical daily driven vehicle. I would assume a stretch SUV like this would not be operated on a daily basis, especially in the winter months.

    Having not ridden in a limo, i’m limited only to what I see on TV. I can’t imagine anyone wears seatbelts in something like this, even if they are present.

    My money is on boiled brake fluid turning this multiple ton vehicle into a runaway freight train. A long downhill run in a vehicle with stock brakes and nearly double the original weight is asking for trouble in any situation. Add in 17 years old and it seems all the more likely.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      I think this is a safe bet. With all those people on board, actual weight might easily approach 2X that of the original vehicle configuration with a couple of people on board. I read a newspaper article stating that factory limo conversions have to comply with safety standards. I don’t want conversion companies to be shut down, but compliance should be demonstrated even for a back yard conversion.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        That’s a good point.

        Someone I work with drives a six-door Ford Excursion. Basically, the coach-builder took a 2012 F-250 SuperCrew long-bed and removed the bed, but kept the frame and cab, then welded the back portion (rear door and quarter panel sections) of an Excursion’s body to the F-250’s cab, making for three doors on each side. I’m now curious as to whether or not the brakes needed to be upgraded, and if they were.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          It’s a grey area since upfitters are allowed to use 100% of a vehicle’s capacity in a build, and simply overweight before the first passenger or cargo. Then it’s up the highway patrol to catch users in the act, cite them, usually only after a crash.

          States and the DOT have cracked down on commercial trucks on 1-ton chassis’, since they’re limited to about 12K lbs total weight, and weigh close to that once upfitted, but have to go through “the scales” and subject to random roadside inspections (increasing thanks to the DEA), while limos aren’t on anyone’s radar.

  • avatar
    Duaney

    It will take some time for the investigation, but I would wager it’s driver error, one clue is the “high rate of speed” involved.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Maybe, but the intersection apparently includes a long descending hill prior to the stop sign. Failed brakes with a max load could easily translate into ‘high rate of speed’, no matter what the driver did.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        And apparently, shifting into a lower gear didn’t cross the driver’s mind.

        I remember a work camp trip I took when I was a youth sponsor at church to West Virginia, where the youth director and her husband drove rented 15-passenger GMC/Chevy Express/Savanna vans, and they needed one more person to take all the luggage and tools, so I volunteered to be the third driver, with a rented 2nd-Generation Pontiac Montana as a perfect pack mule for the occasion! Room to spare! (Fortunately, no offset-frontal crashes occurred whilst piloting it, so I managed to return from the trip with both sanity AND all tarsals intact!)

        Once we got into the mountains of WVa, I put the 4-speed AOD transaxle into second on downgrades, and I had plenty of brakes to spare! Maybe ten miles from our final destination, I started smelling something odd! Before I could blame “the usual bad GM quality” causing a problem with my steed, we pulled off into a gas station, where I found the trouble: the rear brakes of the lead van, driven by the youth director, could have damn near announced a new Pope (along with a couple flickers of flame)! (And this is a Lutheran church, folks!) Her husband, a reasonably good autocrosser, was mildly irritated, to put it nicely! Fortunately, the brakes were OK after a few minutes of cool-down while the teenagers indulged in one last junk-food feast! Fortunately, she’d noticed that her brakes seemed a little “off,” and stopped before she had major problems (although my guess is that the front brakes were doing most of the work by that point), and her husband, driving behind her, mentioned that she probably should stop ASAP, on their FRS radio!! He had done as I had done, downshifting as needed, even after engaging “Tow/Haul Mode,” which helped both the big vans on the return trip.

        This tragedy is probably a laundry list of bad things all at once: it sounds like the body of the limo wasn’t the greatest, which probably meant that the mechanicals weren’t optimal. Coupled with the state of driver education in general (did the driver know what to do when faced with no brakes), and you have a recipe for disaster!

    • 0 avatar
      scottcom36

      I have the same hunch, a clueless driver.

  • avatar
    Yankee

    As someone who used to work nights servicing limos and similar vehicles for a local company, I can tell you first hand these things are deathtraps. As many comments already noted, no drunk partier in a limo is going to wear a seatbelt even if they were there (they usually arent). As 210delray noted, it’s the second collision that kills you when the occupants begin flying through empty space along with all the glassware and bottles from the bar. I’ve worked on an Excursion limo as well as many Town Car conversions and even a Chrysler 300. The springs are beefed up to handle the extra weight, and often a second alternator and battery are added to handle all the lights and other appliances on board, but that’s about it. The brakes are the same stock items found on the original vehicle (I know because I’ve ordered the parts and changed them), and often times the tires are the same as well (load rating be dammned). I’ve always been amazed that more people aren’t killed riding in these things.

  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    I looked at the intersection on Google maps. There is a single stop sign at the end of the road, and large yellow double arrow sign at the T junction. Further up the, there is a “stop ahead” sign 1/10 of a mile before the intersection, and at 2/10’s there is a sign advising that the speed limit is reduced to 50 MPH ahead. Clearly the speed limit needs to be lowered in that stretch, and (at the very least) a flashing red light needs to be installed, if not a full red/yellow/green signal.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Update: the vehicle that crashed failed inspection and its’ driver was unlicensed.

    https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/08/us/new-york-limo-crash/index.html

    This was pure criminal negligence.

    The people who own this company need to be sued into oblivion and thrown into Sing Sing for about 1,000 years.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    Journalism 101: facts. Get them straight.

    Rt 30 does not terminate at the intersection. Rt. 30A terminates at the intersection.

    Rt. 30 has a stop sign at the intersection. Rt. 30A comes in to the intersection from the north (right), and the roadway becomes Rt. 30 south of the intersection.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Everyone wants fewer regulations, right up until their kids get sick from tainted food. Then they want to know where the meat inspectors disappeared to.

    Here’s the automotive equivalent.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Well, there were some regulations in place here, and the limo owner simply blew them off. The vehicle had failed inspection, and the driver wasn’t even licensed.

      I suppose you could call for more safety devices in vehicles like this, and that’d make sense, but in the end, lack of regulation didn’t cause this issue – pure criminal negligence did.

    • 0 avatar
      DedBull

      This vehicle was inspected, failed, and was not authorized to be on the road. That would mean that the inspectors did their job, and the owners illegally put this vehicle into passenger service. There isn’t much more that could have been done, it is not practical to impound every vehicle that does not pass safety inspection.

      As for the seat belts, I saw reference that NYS law does not require them for passengers. Do factory built limos include them?

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        That’s exactly it. The answer to most problems isn’t new regulations. Just better inforcement of existing ones. In this particular case, the company and the company’s management have to be held accountable. The company has to be held for every penny it has, and it’s management has to be criminally charged. It also appears that there was a fair amount of driver error involved.

    • 0 avatar
      PeteRR

      There are fewer regulations of NYS limos in place than before?

  • avatar
    Zipster

    Kyree:

    You are from Oklahoma and you are surprised? With all that comes out of that state, you are a most forgiving soul.

  • avatar
    MarquisDeSolder

    The text sent by one of the passengers complaining about the condition of the limo sates that the “the motor is making everyone deaf.” (Per the reporting at slate.com) So, I’m thinking exhaust leak, possible CO poisoning of the driver? If nothing else, an exhaust leak might point to a rusty undercarriage, with brake lines to match…

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Neither the 7.3 nor the 6.8 (in good condition with proper muffler, at least) has what I would call a “deafening” exhaust note from inside the cabin. Something may be up with that.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        I have serious doubts that a diesel was under the hood, too much noise. This was a 2000 and having owned a 7.3 it would be way too loud for a limo. My money is on the V10 w/ serious neglect underneath. The ‘noise’ could have been a combination of vibration of drive shaft (s), body rot, wheel bearings, who knows what.

        Either way, this is a horrific and avoidable tragedy that needs to have serious, read lifetime, implications for those responsible for making the decision to ignore the law. I get we all dislike the gubment and bureaucracy, but presumably someone inspected this turd pile and gave them a list of things to fix and the owners opted to ignore said gubment affiliated inspector. Just a shame all around.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    So the driver was an illegal alien who obtained refugee status here and was wanted in Pakistan for murder. Clearly not someone that cares about the rule of law to begin with.
    Apparently he came in through the southern border, just more reason we need to get this wall fast tracked.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    I have a space in a parkade that is about half rents by a limo company and have chatted with the maintenance guys there. They say our city has a hard limit of a limo being 10 years old when used for commercial service.

    There is nothing stopping someone from buying a limo over 10 years old and using it to drive their friends around, but it can’t be for hire if over 10 years.

    I’m sure that’s exactly to prevent things like this, if there was rusted brake lines, chassis etc.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    When my wife and I lived in Binghamton and her grandmother lived in Amsterdam, we would take I-88 up to this exit rather frequently; I’ve actually driven through that intersection several times.

    The stop is indeed on a long sweep and at the bottom of a long grade that effectively begins where the road crosses over I-88. Personally I never cared for the stop at the bottom; I always preferred to turn at NY-7 before you crossed the interstate down the hill that way instead. It’s way too easy to pick up speed there without really noticing.

    My mother in law had connections to some of the victims, it’s mind boggling for an accident of such magnitude to happen in such a small-town area.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • d4rksabre: There are so many better cars for that kind of money it’s almost a joke that this even exists.
  • Fred: I have to agree, the color and the seats are probably really nice, but I would expect more. Maybe put the NSX...
  • schmitt trigger: “….use illegal Mexican-sourced labor…” That was then. Nowadays, because of...
  • Art Vandelay: Of course i’m good with the TVA…I like electricity. We export around 1/3 of the energy...
  • ravenuer: Are you referring to the Hawaiian Christian Obama? BTW, where was Melanija Knavs born again? I keep...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States