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The operator of a limousine company was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter Wednesday after one of the company’s limos—which had failed inspections and was in poor mechanical condition—crashed and killed 20 people in upstate New York in 2018, the deadliest U.S. crash in almost a decade.
After two days of deliberation, jurors in rural Schoharie County, New York, found 33-year-old Nauman Hussain, who was in charge of day-to-day operations at Prestige Limousine, guilty on 20 counts of involuntary manslaughter, a decision that could land Hussain in prison for up to 15 years.
During closing remarks on Tuesday, Frederick Rench, a special prosecutor in the trial, said Hussain “caused the deaths of the victims” and said it was his “duty” to ensure the vehicles were safe to be on the roads, the New York Times reported.
Hussian’s lawyer, Lee Kindlon, argued the accident was the result of faulty repair work on the vehicle’s brake system, the Associated Press reported.
A group celebrating a 30th birthday party rented a stretch Ford Excursion SUV from Prestige Limousine on October 6, 2018. The driver of that limo flew through an intersection at more than 100 mph, striking an SUV and killing two pedestrians before the limo came to a stop on an embankment in Schoharie, a town west of Albany. All 17 passengers of the limo, the two pedestrians and the driver were killed. The investigations that followed found a number of safety concerns and violations by the company. The National Transportation Safety Board found Prestige Limousine “knowingly” operated a limousine that was in “poor mechanical condition” the day of the crash, adding that the company’s maintenance program was not “effective” in ensuring passengers’ safety. That investigation revealed the high speed crash was caused by a brake system failure. The limo had also failed an inspection by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles the month before the crash, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said at the time. Meanwhile, the driver of the vehicle did not have the appropriate driver’s license to operate the vehicle, officials said. Throughout the case, prosecutors have argued that Hussain knew about the unsafe conditions of the car, and at one point argued that he removed an out-of-service sticker from the windshield of the limo before the crash, WTEN, an ABC affiliate, reported.
In 2021, Hussain made a deal with prosecutors to avoid prison time by pleading guilty to the homicide counts, serving five years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service, the AP reported. But a state Supreme Court judge said the agreement was “fundamentally flawed” and invalidated it.
The accident marked the deadliest transportation crash in the U.S. since 2009 and led Cuomo to issue a ban on stretch limos.
What To Watch For
Hussain’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 31.
Limo Firm’s Operator Is Charged in Fatal Upstate New York Crash (New York Times)
Limo in New York crash that killed 20 had failed inspection and driver didn’t have appropriate license: Governor (ABC News)