SCHOHARIE — The limousine company operator charged in connection with the October crash that killed 20 people was aware of prior passenger complaints about the vehicle and even refunded fares to customers, prosecutors allege in a new court filing.
Prosecutors also allege that Nauman Hussain made repairs to the limousine in the lead up to the crash, but had been told by “third parties” that the repairs were “temporary and/or inadequate and that the limousine required further repairs; and/or individuals over a period of time, refused to drive the 2001 Ford Excursion Stretch Limousine because of its condition.”
Hussain also allowed the limo driver Scott T. Lisinicchia, who was among those killed in the crash, to operate the limo without the proper endorsement and without Lisinicchia being specifically listed under the limousine’s insurance policy, prosecutors claim.
Schoharie County District Attorney Susan Mallery made the allegation in documents filed last week, listing off other information either allegedly told to Nauman Hussain or information he was aware of in addition to the previously alleged failed state inspections of the vehicle.
Hussain, 28, of Cohoes, was indicted last 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 limo should never have been on the road, state police have said previously. The 2001 Ford Excursion stretch limousine should have been taken out of service based on brake issues identified in a September inspection, they said.
The investigation found the “sole responsibility for that vehicle being on the road was Nauman Hussain’s,” state police Superintendent George Beach told reporters at the time.
Hussain is represented by attorney Lee Kindlon. Kindlon could not be reached for comment Monday, but he has previously vowed a vigorous defense. Hussain has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Sal Ferlazzo, the Albany attorney representing the estate of Amanda Rivenberg, one of those killed in the crash, said he had not heard the allegation that Lisinicchia was not listed on the limo’s insurance policy.
However, Ferlazzo said that, while the insurance company may try to claim that as an issue, he did not believe that would ultimately be one because the limo company consented to Lisinicchia driving it.
Ferlazzo confirmed the limit of the insurance policy to be $500,000, meaning that, assuming all 20 people killed put in claims, the $500,000 would be the limit to be divided among the estates. There are other potential defendants, however, including the state, he said. Limo company assets in the United States would also be available to be sought, he said.
The prosecution filing goes on to directly allege that Hussain “repeatedly failed to properly maintain the vehicle.”
The allegations of prior passenger complaints and refunds are not detailed in the filing, including what the complaints were and when.
Prosecutors wrote: Hussain received “multiple notices of violations” from the state and still allowed passengers to ride in it. “Third parties” told him he had to comply with state regulations. He also attempted to sell the limousine prior to the crash.
Hussain placed the limousine in service the day of the crash and charged the credit card used to pay for it, prosecutors wrote.
“Further, defendant was reckless when he hired a driver who did not have authority to drive a 16 passenger vehicle/limousine and who lacked a P endorsement,” Mallery wrote.
Hussain was also told Lisinicchia could not drive the limo until he obtained the proper endorsement, prosecutors allege.