Multiple and catastrophic brake failures identified in fatal limo crash

Multiple brake defects, resulting in “catastrophic failure,” have been blamed for the crash of a stretched 2001 Ford Excursion limousine that killed 20 people at Schoharie, New York, last Oct. 6.

The limousine sped through a stop sign and went off the road, through a parking lot and into a wooded area. New York State Police reported that the limo had twice been ordered out of service last year during roadside inspections.

An inspection ordered by prosecutors after the crash found brake problems at all four wheels of the Excursion, according to documents filed in Schoharie County Court. In addition, the inspector found “severely corroded rear crossover brake tubing, ultimately realizing burst failure from brake fluid pressure by and through brake pedal application.”

Nauman Hussain, 28, manager of Prestige Limousine of Sarasota Springs, has pleaded not guilty to 20 counts of second-degree manslaughter and 20 counts of criminally negligent homicide for the crash that killed 17 passengers, two pedestrians and the driver of the limousine. The manager is the son of company owner Shahed Hussain, who is in Pakistan.

State police found that the company did not hold state operating authority while the driver was not properly licensed to operate a vehicle carrying 16 or more passengers. The company somehow had obtained inspection stickers without submitting the vehicle to required New York Department of Transportation semi-annual inspections.

A witness told police the limo hired to carry a birthday party to a brewery “traveled through the intersection at a high rate of speed” and entered a restaurant parking lot. It struck a sport utility vehicle and two people on the lot then “went into a ravine, where it collided with the earthen embankment on the far side.” The vehicle had been ordered out of service last year due to problems with the brakes and an emergency exit, state police said.

An inspection report requested by prosecutors stated that the Excursion’s left rear brake was inoperable due to seized caliper pistons. Brakes at the other three wheels suffered reduced efficiency due to rotor and pad wear and reduced hydraulic force. Prosecutors have asked a judge to order Hussain to provide a DNA sample to be used in determining whether he handled a “removed or peeled-off DOT sticker” that had been placed on the limousine’s windshield when it was placed out of service. The sticker was found in the vehicle by police investigators after the accident. Additionally, a prosecutor motion said that other Prestige Limousine employees refused to drive this particular vehicle because of its condition.

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