Limo Crash That Killed 20 In New York Raises Questions About Safety

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.

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.

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.

 

  • Jay

    I heard about this earlier, very sad this one is. As far as limo safety goes.. I guess it could be a bit better with airbags but I doubt folks would wear their seat belts in them.

    • Mike Sinyaboot ©

      Agreed. I suppose new regulations could be mandated that force limousines to require that all passengers must be wearing their seat-belts. Limos could have seat-belt sensors like those in the front passenger seat of modern cars. Instead of simply activating a chime when the belt is not buckled, the sensor could make the limo inoperable. If a passenger unbuckled themselves while limo is driving, an extremely loud alarm could be played in the passenger cabin and the driver would be mandated to pull over if the belt was not promptly re-buckled.

      That being said, limos are simply dangerous should an accident occur. I have never ridden in a traditional stretch limousine but I have used “party bus” limos a dozen times or so. I would think “party buses” are much more structurally sound as they are designed and manufactured to transport large groups of people. Stretch limos have nowhere near the strength and durability of a party bus as the vehicles they are built upon were never meant to be stretched.

      Hopefully tougher regulations are created so that accidents like this do not kill every passenger.

      • Jay

        Trust me, party busses are no safer. Metal frame, insulation, fiber glass or aluminum on the outside. I guess they could “force” people to buckle up but that’ll take time to enforce but that’s better than nothing.

        • Mike Sinyaboot ©

          Ya. I figured that the steel ladder frame of the bus would hold up better than a frame that is cut up and lengthened to no particular standard. I suppose it wouldn’t have mattered what type of limo they were in. T-boning a parked car at 70 mph then plowing into trees is going to be incredibly violent and fatal.

          I wonder how well seat-belts work in a limousine seeing as the majority of passengers sit facing sideways. A frontal impact at speed would want to fold passengers in half.

          • Jay

            Yea I imagined then hitting the parked car like a solid wall and all of their bodies flying forward. At that point it wouldn’t matter how strong the bus or limo structure is when it’s occupants are shuffled and thrown around hitting the walls and each other.

  • Mr. EP9

    That company is definitely going to be on the hook for this, not only for operating a vehicle that failed a state inspection, but also using a driver that didn’t even have the proper license to operate it. Don’t be surprised when they go out of business due to legal costs and litigation.

  • DM

    So sad. My dad never let me ride in one of those when I was younger, and I thought he was exaggerating about their lack of safety, but stretched limos, party buses and all those kinds of vehicles are real coffins on wheels. What is even more shocking is that school buses are just as unsafe; many of them are very old and have no seatbelts, let alone safety features or tech.

    • Mike Sinyaboot ©

      I agree that stretch limos are coffins on wheels should a bad accident occur. Even if the passengers are belted in, the vehicles the limos are built upon lose all structural integrity and crash safety. Party buses are definitely “safer” in my opinion as they are designed and built to be people haulers from the start. They are vastly more structurally sound and will hold up better in the event of an accident. That being said, any accident at speed is still going to throw the passengers around. In the dozens of times I have been in a party bus, I don’t remember ever seeing a seat-belt. Add in the fact that you are able to stand/walk around inside and they can be just as dangerous.

    • Galaxium

      I think with school buses at least, they are at a much higher ride height. Even if a F-150 or something similar rammed into a yellow school bus, it would be mostly out of the way of students. Of course, if a semi were to ever hit a school bus, then that would be disastrous.

  • Six_Tymes

    WHAT WAS THE DRIVERS NAME? No one wants to talk about that do they, WHY? Release his damn name already!!!

    • Mike Sinyaboot ©

      I’m not sure if you are trying to make some sort of strange joke or not but in the video above “they” clearly name the driver and even provide a picture of him. This happens 38 seconds into the news clip.

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/688c8220533b97d24a9351478f32c229ac4ee633d1a6408e0a08f7861f2d0c70.jpg

      • Six_Tymes

        THANK YOU, i was curious

    • diesel_vdub

      Does it matter what the drivers name is? Will that bring back any of the victims?
      All it’s going to do is allow ignorant Internet trolls to harass their family.

  • Bo Hanan

    This is like a Final Destination film- everybody died. There are plane crashes at higher speeds with people surviving. This is so weird to me.

    • DetrinKD

      Exactly! Even at the speeds quoted its really strange that every single person died. I could understand if it had flipped, but it just smashed into a car and ran into a ditch. Though violent, I am sure, but it doesn’t seem like that would be cause to take 18 lives. Either way, it’s extremely sad that so many members of a family, multiple families lives were lost at the same time. Just one is hard to take, but 4 sisters at once. I cannot imagine!

    • Mike Sinyaboot ©

      I thought the same thing upon seeing the picture of the limousine. The damage doesn’t look severe enough that it would kill everyone inside. Although, at 60 plus mph, the impacts with a parked car and trees were incredibly violent and the passengers had nothing to protect or stop them from being thrown around. This limo also failed its inspection and had no business carrying so many people. Whoever dispatched this un-roadworthy limo after their party bus broke down needs to be punished severely. If the limo company did not have another party bus to use after theirs broke down, the company should have hired one out from another company. This is a tragedy that never should have occurred.

  • dumblikeyou2

    Rest in Peace, Amanda Halse. You were a super-nice girl that left the earth far too soon. Godspeed.

  • benT

    did anyone get shot today ?

    • TheHake

      yes

  • DetrinKD

    Yikes! Much more violent than I thought. I still can’t wrap my mind on EVERYONE dying. But that is much worse than I thought. And I also didn’t think of the weight of the reinforcements to strengthen the body crushing the front end and adding to the violence of the impact.

  • Craig

    The limo must have been going incredibly fast. I wonder if the driver mistook the gas pedal for the brake.

  • It’s like that thing inside had knives that deploy in case of a crash… A very sad event and this will surely affect some regulations regarding limos.
    Condolences to the families of the deceased.

  • Jay

    Looks like it to me. 19 people in the back slamming into each other at thats speed.. I even doubt the driver had his seatbelt on, however even if he did, the weight on the back could have completely demolished his compartment up front.

  • Galaxium

    When the limo didn’t pass inspection, does it mean it failed structural rigidity? Emissions?

  • S3XY

    I would never step inside a coffin on wheels knowing how unsafe it is. No matter what. I’d rather be in a ____

  • MarketAndChurch

    riding old limos is playing russian roulette with your life

  • robotlogic

    In these kind of crashes people are killed by being crushed by fellow unbelted occupants or interior peices crushing or hitting them. Limo companies like to finish the inside of these things with high end looking interiors and because of their weight these pieces can break off and become missiles in an accident.

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