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Limo company failures, unsafe intersection may be factors in crash

New York is still reeling after the recent crash of a stretch limousine in upstate New York that resulted in the death of 18 occupants, including the driver and 17 people headed to a birthday party, and two pedestrians. A 2001 Ford Excursion that had been modified into a limo reportedly blew through the stop sign at a T-junction intersection, then struck a parked SUV and the two pedestrians. The limo was operated by Prestige Limousine Chauffeur Service.

The crash may be the deadliest land-vehicle wreck in the U.S. since 2005, when 23 people were killed in a bus in Texas. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident, as are the New York State Police.

So far, serious issues with Prestige Limousine have been uncovered. The limo involved had failed a recent safety inspection. In fact, Prestige vehicles had been inspected five times in the last two years and four of those inspections resulted in a vehicle being ordered out of service.

The driver also lacked the proper license to drive limousines, according to NPR. Moreover, according to his wife, he had complained more than once about the dangerous condition of Prestige's limos.

The company has been ordered to cease operations and its operator has been arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide.

Modified stretch limos may not meet federal safety standards

While limos built in factories must comply with federal safety regulations, vehicles modified on the aftermarket do not. They may lack enough seat belts for every passenger, for example, and their brakes and tires may not be sufficient for the additional weight.

"When we look at limousines and stretch limos, we see a really Frankenstein system of cars that potentially are cut up and put back together with parts and pieces that were not original to them," added the head of the nonprofit National Safety Council, a former chair of the NTSB. "And additionally, some things may be taken off -- things like air bags or seat belts."

T-junction was known as dangerous intersection

The intersection where the crash occurred was redone in 2008 after a fatal accident, according to the Associated Press. Since then, at least three semi-trucks have run the same stop sign, according to the owner of an adjacent business, the Apple Barrel Country Store and Café.

"More accidents than I can count," she said. "We have been asking for something to be done for years."

A tragic crash like this one can have multiple contributing causes. Along with police and the NTSB, personal injury attorneys perform investigations to identify those causes and hold people responsible for the harm they cause.

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