30th birthday parties are supposed to be joyous occasions, but one turned tragic over the weekend as a stretched limo carrying 17 party-goers was involved in one of the deadliest transportation accidents in the United States in nearly a decade.
The accident occurred in Schoharie, New York on Saturday when the group was traveling to a brewery in a 2001 Ford Excursion limousine. According to the New York State Police, the Excursion was traveling southwest on State Route 30 when its driver failed to stop at an intersection.
The limo plowed through the intersection and into a parking lot where it hit a 2015 Toyota Highlander. While the Highlander was unoccupied, the force of the impact caused the vehicle to hit and kill two pedestrians which were standing nearby.
Unfortunately, everyone in the Excursion was also killed – including the driver. This means the accident claimed 20 lives in a matter of seconds.
#518news #schoharie Emergency vehicles surround the Apple Barrel Cafe at Route 30 and Route 30A in Schoharie after a van style limousine and an SUV collided injuring several and killing approximately 3 people. pic.twitter.com/6HGfHcBkx9
— Peter R. Barber (@prbarber1) October 6, 2018
The investigation is ongoing and a team from the National Transportation Safety Board is helping the New York State Police try to make sense of the tragedy.
While officials continue to probe what happened, NBC News is reporting that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has revealed the Excursion failed an inspection last month. In a press conference earlier today, he said “The owner of the company had no business putting a failed vehicle on the road.”
The vehicle was reportedly owned by Prestige Limousine and Cuomo said the Excursion’s driver didn’t have a commercial driver’s license with a passenger endorsement. This means he should have never been driving the vehicle in the first place.
While Cuomo revealed some new details about the accident, he said it’s unclear if the vehicle suffered a malfunction or the driver was as fault. It’s also worth mentioning the possibility that the driver could have suffered a medical emergency which left them incapacitated.
State Police have confirmed 20 people died in a limo crash in Schoharie County Saturday pic.twitter.com/j5i4HzPJFM
— ExtraNews24h (@ExtraNews24h) October 7, 2018
Regardless of the cause, Schoharie supervisor Alan Tavenner said witnesses have indicated the Excursion went through the intersection at speeds in excess of 60 mph (96 km/h). The Washington Post is also reporting that the group was originally scheduled to go to the brewery in “some kind of bus” which was presumably a party bus. However, the bus reportedly broke down on the way to the brewery and the Excursion was sent to pick everyone up.
At least one of the victims wasn’t pleased with this as she reportedly sent a text message saying the limo was in terrible condition. However, it remains unclear what exactly she was referring too.
Are Limos Safe?
Unsurprisingly, the crash has raised questions about the safety of limos and how well companies maintain them. Unfortunately, consumers are often hard pressed to find details aside from the usual online reviews.
Those aren’t very informative in regards to safety, but limos have come under fire in the past for not being as safe as traditional passenger vehicles. Following a fatal limousine crash three years ago, The New York Times talked to Raul Arbelaez from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Since limos are essentially stretched versions of normal passenger vehicles, it means occupants aren’t necessarily seated near a pillar which offers increased protection in the event of a crash. The issues don’t stop there as Arbelaez said safety requirements aren’t as strict on limos as they are with traditional cars. In particular, he noted limos aren’t required to have to have side curtain airbags.
Furthermore, limousines that are built by independent shops aren’t crash tested and it’s not uncommon for passengers not to use seat belts. Arbelaez suggested the safety issues are so glaring that “It’s like playing in the World Cup and leaving the goalie box open.” That’s not very reassuring, but only a small numbers of vehicle fatalities come from people riding in limousines.
So what can you do to ensure your limo is safe? A number of reputable companies recommended customers who are interested in renting a limo actually check out the vehicle beforehand. This won’t necessarily reveal all issues, but customers can at least get an idea about the vehicle’s condition. If there are any obvious red flags, customers might want to shop around.