SCHOHARIE — The operator of the limousine company charged in the October Schoharie crash that killed 20 people identified himself as his father, the company owner, related to limo inspections multiple times in the months leading up to the crash, prosecutors allege in a new court filing.
The documents also reveal Nauman Hussain’s alleged reaction to being told of the crash.
When told by an investigator over the phone there had been an accident and asked if he knew the driver’s name and where they had been going, Hussain identified the driver by his first name, Scott, and added, “Is he OK? Is this a prank?”
Hussain, 28, of Cohoes, was indicted earlier this month on 20 counts of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, one count of each for every victim.
The Oct. 6 crash at the intersection of state routes 30 and 30A killed all 17 passengers inside the limo, the limo driver and two pedestrians in the parking lot of a nearby store. The 17 passengers in the limo were en route from Amsterdam to Cooperstown to celebrate a birthday.
The investigation found the “sole responsibility for that vehicle being on the road was Nauman Hussain’s” as it should never had been there based on brake issues found in a September inspection, state police Superintendent George Beach told reporters at the time of Hussain’s arrest.
Hussain has pleaded not guilty.
The new documents relate to alleged statements by Hussain in the months leading up to the crash and in the hours that followed. Prosecutors want permission to use them at trial.
In one, an inspector — the name and agency is unclear in the filing — notes six contacts by phone or in person from Jan. 8, 2018 to Aug. 27, 2018, concerning violations on the limo that eventually crashed. In each of the six contacts the inspector asked for “Shahed,” who is the owner of the limo company, Prestige Limousine and Nauman Hussein’s father. In each of the six contacts, Nauman Hussain allegedly identified himself as Shahed Hussain.
Then, on Sept. 4, Nauman Hussain again identified himself as his father, records allege. When asked who Nauman Hussain was, Nauman Hussain responded, “It is me.”
The inspector then confirmed Nauman Hussain had the authority to act for Shahed Hussain. The inspector then completed the inspection, reviewed the defects and told him of the required compliances, according to the document.
Federal records indicated previously that the inspection cited the crash limo’s hydraulic braking system, among other issues.
The inspector last had contact with Nauman Hussain on Oct. 5, a day prior to the crash. The inspector renewed a request for DBA — doing business as — that the inspector had initially asked for Sept. 4, as well as drug and alcohol testing information.
The next contact Hussain had with investigators was at approximately 3:45 p.m. Oct. 6, after the 1:55 p.m. crash.
State police Investigator Erika Hock contacted the same Prestige Limousine phone number the earlier inspector had used. Hock got Nauman Hussain on the phone and asked if he was the owner. He responded his father was, but his father was out of the country so he was running the company while his father was gone.
“One of your limos has been involved in an accident,” Hock told Hussain, “do you know who the driver is and where they were going?”
Hussain then asked if the driver was OK and if the call was a prank. He then spelled the driver’s last name.
Hock asked where they were going and who booked the trip.
“Let me look, hang on. It was Axel Steenburg, it was for 16-18 people, it was booked at the last minute over the phone at 9 this morning,” Hussain responded in part.