SCHOHARIE -- All of those killed in the Oct. 6 stretch limousine crash in Schoharie died of severe traumatic injuries, according to autopsies, state police said on Friday.
The investigation of the cause of the crash -- the deadliest traffic accident in the United States since 2005 -- continues. Troopers said on Friday they had just received autopsy results from Dr. Michael Sikirica, who conducted the autopsies on all 20 victims at Albany Medical Center.
"The cause of death for all 20 victims is listed as multiple severe traumatic blunt force injuries," troopers said. "The state police is awaiting the results of toxicology tests."
The crash occurred when a stretch limousine carrying the driver and 17 passengers to a birthday celebration went through a stop sign at routes 30 and 30A in Schoharie, striking and killing two pedestrians in the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store.
Those in the limousine, including four sisters from Amsterdam and three of their spouses, were killed in what investigators said was a "high impact" crash. The funerals of those killed prompted community-wide outpourings of grief.
State police continue to investigate as the Schoharie County district attorney prepares to present the case to a grand jury. Nauman Hussain, 28, of Cohoes, who police said was the operator of the limousine company, has been charged with a single count of criminally negligent homicide, but could face more charges. The company, Prestige Limousines, was owned by his father, Shahed Hussain, who is in Pakistan. The younger Hussain is free on $150,000 bond.
The 2001 Ford Excursion stretch limousine owned by Prestige remains in state police custody as troopers continue to gather evidence. The vehicle had failed a state Department of Transportation commercial vehicle inspection for various issues, including brake problems, on Sept. 4. Driver Scott Linicchia of Queensbury was also driving without the proper passenger commercial license to carry so many passengers, officials said.
The National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating the deadly crash. The Associated Press reported Thursday night that NTSB investigators are frustrated that they haven't yet been able to do a detailed examination of the vehicle and its condition. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., during a press conference Friday on rail safety, said he was informed by the Schoharie County district attorney that the NTSB has been allowed to get a look at the limo.
State police said the NTSB investigation must wait until the criminal investigation is further along.
"The State Police and NTSB have been working hand-in-hand since the start of this investigation, and that will continue until the cause of this tragic crash has been determined," state police spokesman Beau Duffy said in a released statement.
He said the state police have possession of the limousine under a search warrant as part of the criminal investigation, and the criminal investigation has priority. "The vehicle is the most important piece of evidence that will help ultimately determine the cause of the crash, and the extent of any criminal wrongdoing," he said.
In addition to police evidence collection, Duffy said Hussain's defense must have a chance to examine the vehicle before it can be turned over to the NTSB for their work. NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said his agency "will look at everything."
"The preservation of evidence is critically important to the criminal case; if the NTSB were allowed to handle evidence before it has been fully examined and processed by the state police and the defense, it would jeopardize the criminal case," Duffy said.
Meanwhile, a person found dead in the Crest Inn and Suites in Wilton on Oct. 10 has been identified as Michael Kornacki, age 61, who was residing at the motel. According to his obituary, Kornacki, who was self-employed, lived most of his life in Schenectady. The Crest Inn is owned by the Hussain family, and it was the legal address of Prestige Limousines.
The circumstances regarding Kornacki's death remain under investigation, but police earlier said they were suspicious. State Police said Friday that have definitively ruled out any connection between his death and the owners of the business, and the business itself.