NTSB Looking Into Limo Regulations in Wake of Deadly Crash

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
ntsb looking into limo regulations in wake of deadly crash

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)]

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  • Jagboi Jagboi on Oct 09, 2018

    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.

  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Oct 10, 2018

    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.

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