3 months after 20 people were killed in a limousine accident in Schoaries, NY (see previous blog), the National Transportation Safety Board has still not been able to inspect the vehicle. The NTSB has not been able to get closer than 15 feet from the vehicle because the local district attorney is blocking them from doing so. The accident was the deadliest of all traffic accidents in the US since 2009. The vehicle was a modified 2001 Ford excursion that had failed a state inspection and was driven by a driver that didn’t have the credentials to drive such vehicle.
In certain area such as aviation or train transportation, the NTSB has the legal authority to control the investigation but in highway crashes, local authorities are in charge and in this case the local district attorney has been keeping the federal agency from completing their investigation.
Loss of critical evidence
Back in mid December, NTSB General Counsel Kathleen Silbaugh sent a letter to Susan Mallery, the district attorney of Scholarie County in Upstate NY to let her know that “The delays you imposed have denied the NTSB access to the primary, essential evidence, resulting in safety-critical evidence being lost,”. Mallery replied to Sillbaugh that investigators were given opportunities to see the limo but that the State Police and her office had to maintain the integrity of evidence because the criminal case has priority.
Since the beginning of October the limo has been sitting beneath a state police tent near Albany. The limo was a 2001 Ford Excursion that was modified into a stretch limo. This type of vehicle is particularly dangerous and may soon be banned in New York Sate. The NTSB investigation could have resulted in valuable safety recommendations specific to this type of modified vehicle especially in regards to the braking system. However because of the delay, the NTSB will no longer be able to evaluate corrosion. This evaluation would have been critical to look at the brakes or at the condition of the electrical system at the time of the accident.
Read more in the Claim Journal