ALBANY — Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara is pushing to reconvene a task force established to study limousine safety hazards related to a 2018 tragedy in Schoharie that killed 20 people.
The group was last active in October, releasing a report to the state Legislature which provided policy recommendations, including new standard mandates on extended driver training and equipping decade-old limousines with side-impact protection devices.
Some of the group members, before the report was released, expressed concern that the final meeting was closed to the public and the narrative didn’t pin enough scrutiny on agency regulators.
The Rotterdam Democrat recently introduced a bill to revisit the process beyond the previous state-mandated timetable. The move, he said, would provide time for appointed members to review state Inspector General Lucy Lang’s findings on the incident, which were released later in October.
“Since the Inspector General’s report came out, there is new information to review, and there is more work to be done,” Santabarbara, who sponsored legislation to create the task force back in 2018, said in a statement. “Let’s allow the task force to reconvene, review all the new information that was not available to them before, and make sure that we leave no stone unturned when it comes to improving limo safety.”
Should his bill pass, task force members will have until December 2024 to release a new report.
Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office hasn’t responded to a request for comment.
Lang’s report showed that the large 2001 Ford Excursion SUV was prohibited from usage due to a host of mechanical issues and failed multiple inspections. The state Department of Transportation in a later letter expressed “strong disagreement” with the IG’s findings which pointed the blame, in part, at the agency not seizing the vehicle’s license plates.
“It is important for the members of the task force to be allowed to continue its work including a review of the Inspector General’s findings and make any further recommendations to the legislature to improve limousine safety,” Santabarbara said in a statement.
Critics say a culmination of missteps in both the public and private sector led the SUV-converted stretch limo, en route to Otsego County for a birthday celebration, to lose control while traveling downhill and slam into a gully near the Apple Barrel Country Store, leaving a group of 17 friends from the Amsterdam area, the vehicle’s driver and two pedestrians dead.
Santabarbara’s new legislation comes as Nauman Hussain, operator of Prestige Limousine & Chauffer Service of Wilton, faces a new trial on 20 counts each of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected]. Follow him on Facebook at Tyler A. McNeil, Daily Gazette or Twitter @TylerAMcNeil.