Authorities are continuing to investigate a tragic accident in New York state that left 20 people dead after a limousine ran a stop sign and crashed into a parked SUV, killing the 18 passengers in the limo and two bystanders. The limo was going downhill at a high rate of speed toward a T-intersection, which many residents say is extremely dangerous. The speed limit in the area is 50 miles-per-hour, but officials say the limo was going at least 60 miles-per-hour when the driver rolled through a stop sign.
The group of 18 were on their way to a birthday party at a local brewery and had originally rented a bus to take them. However, the bus broke down and they were instead picked up by a limo, which one of the passengers described as being in "terrible condition" in a text message just 20 minutes before the fatal crash.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters that the driver did not have the appropriate license to operate the limo, which was operated by Prestige Limousine. The vehicle failed its state inspection last month and should not have been allowed on the road, Cuomo added. He said that officials have filed a cease-and-desist order against the company while the investigation continues.
According to a report by the Albany Times Union, Shahed Hussain, the owner of Prestige Limousine was a former FBI informant who helped authorities identify Muslims who had become radicalized by terrorist groups. He helped the agency make two terror busts, one in 2004 and another in 2009. Hussain became an informant following a conviction on federal fraud charges in 2002.
"We don't yet know the cause of the accident—if it was a vehicle malfunction if it was a driver malfunction, a driver error. That's part of the ongoing investigation between the NTSB and the State Police," Cuomo explained.
According to NBC New York, locals have complained about that intersection for years. Officials made changes to the intersection after a fatal accident in 2008, but that did not stop trucks from blowing through the stop sign and crashing into a field across the street. Eventually, large trucks were banned from the road, but the intersection is still the scene of a large number of accidents.