SCHOHARIE, N.Y. (AP) — The limousine service under scrutiny after a crash that killed 20 people fixed safety violations in its fleet before the tragedy, said a lawyer who suggested the driver was unfamiliar with the rural road.
Prestige Limousine has been criticized for maintaining vehicles rife with violations and for employing a driver lacking a commercial license. The deadly crash Saturday west of Albany also has shined fresh light on the controversial history of the business’s owner, a former FBI informant.
The limousine that ran a stop sign at a T-intersection was cited for code violations Sept. 4, including a problem with the antilock brake system malfunction indicator system. Four of the Gansevoort, New York-based company’s limos were cited for 22 maintenance violations this year, though none were deemed critical.
“Those safety issues had been addressed and corrected,” attorney Lee Kindlon, who represents Prestige, told CBS News in a segment Tuesday. “Not all infractions are major. A lot of these things are minor and were fixed.”
Kindlon said he doesn’t think those infractions contributed to the crash.
He told the Times Union of Albany that the driver, identified as Scott Lisinicchia, might have misjudged his ability to stop at the bottom of the long winding hill.
“I think he came up over that hill unfamiliar with territory. You just can’t the stop something like that,” Kindlon said. “I think the state has been warned about that intersection for years and the Department of Transportation is just looking to point a finger.”
The limousine, built from a 2001 Ford Excursion, ran the stop sign, crossed three lanes of traffic and hit a parked SUV before stopping in a wooded ditch. Two pedestrians and all 18 people in the limo celebrating a woman’s birthday died.
Federal transportation records show Prestige is owned by Shahed Hussain, who worked as an informant for the FBI after the Sept. 11 attacks. He infiltrated Muslim groups by posing as a terrorist sympathizer in at least three investigations.
State police say Shahed Hussain is in Pakistan.
On Monday his son, Nauman Hussain, who has operated the limo company, met with state police investigators for several hours, according to the Albany newspaper.
Kindlon declined to comment on the interview to the newspaper. He did not return calls seeking comment from The Associated Press.
In 2014, Nauman Hussain and his brother were accused by police of insisting they were each other after a traffic stop. Nauman Hussain was the passenger, but had a valid license. His brother did not. Police later discovered Nauman had an extensive suspension and conviction list which had been cleared, according to the Times Union.
Prestige’s address is listed as a modest motel outside Saratoga Springs that is owned by Hussain, according to tax records.
Nearby residents complained to town code enforcement officials several times in recent years about the condition of Hussain’s property.
In spring 2017, the state health officials shut down the motel and its low-income residents were forced to temporarily move out after a sewer line failed. The owner claimed a disgruntled former tenant sabotaged the infrastructure, but a building inspector blamed the problem on improper fittings and lack of support for the waste lines.