NEW YORK (Reuters) – The owner of a limousine involved in an accident that killed 20 people in upstate New York over the weekend said on Tuesday that safety violations that led the vehicle to fail inspection last month did not cause the crash, the deadliest in nearly a decade.
“I don’t think that these infractions were what led to the tragedy,” Lee Kindlon, attorney for Prestige Limousine, which owns the vehicle, told CBS News in an interview.
Reuters was not able to reach Prestige Limousine for comment and the firm’s listed phone number was disconnected.
All three vehicles owned by the company, which is based in Gansevoort, New York, had violations when they were inspected last month, U.S. Department of Transportation records show.
The inspection of the 2001 Ford Excursion limousine that crashed had turned up several violations, including some involving anti-lock brake malfunction indicators and inoperative or defective windshield wipers.
“Those safety issues had been addressed and corrected,” said Kindlon. “Not all infractions are major. A lot of these things were minor and were fixed.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters at the Columbus Day Parade in New York City on Monday that Prestige Limousine was being sent a cease-and-desist order to halt operations until authorities investigated the accident.
Those killed in the crash, which officials said occurred on Saturday as the limo was taking its passengers to a birthday party, included two pairs of newlyweds, four sisters from one family and two brothers from another.
Cuomo said the driver, who died in the accident and was identified by a local television station as 53-year-old Scott Lisinicchia, did not have the proper license to operate the vehicle.
BROTHER SAYS DRIVER LICENSED
But Lisinicchia’s twin brother Keith said he was an experienced and conscientious driver who was properly licensed.
“I know that he always kept his license up. I mean it was a CDL (commercial driver license) license,” Keith Lisinicchia told WRGB TV in Albany, New York. “I know that he always made sure that it was valid and was in order.”
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the crash and will look at safety regulations for limousines, whose passengers are not required to wear seat belts.
Before the crash, one of the victims, Erin McGowan, texted a friend that the limousine appeared to have engine trouble, the New York Times reported.
McGowan’s aunt, Valerie Abeling, told CNN her niece had texted a friend saying the company had sent the stretch limousine to replace a vehicle that had broken down.
Officials said the vehicle ran a stop sign at a highway intersection in Schoharie, New York, about 40 miles (65 km) west of Albany, police and the NTSB said.
It crashed into an unoccupied parked car and two pedestrians before coming to a rest in a shallow ravine, officials said, killing the driver, all 17 passengers and the two pedestrians.
Reporting by Peter Szekely, Gabriella Borter and Joseph Ax in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Bernadette Baum