Limo Driver in Schoharie Tragedy Had Prior Drug Arrests

posted by WGY News - 

It's being called the deadliest crash in almost a decade. 

Twenty people were killed on Saturday when a limousine, packed with 18 people, failed to stop at the intersection of routes 30 and 30A in the town of Schoharie, and crashed into bystanders at the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store. 

All 18 in the limo were killed, along with two people in the parking lot. 

On Monday Governor Andrew Cuomo said "the state inspected the vehicle just last month, it failed the inspection. The driver did not have the appropriate license, so I think the owner of this company, the owner of Prestige; has a lot of questions to answer."

We're learning more about the driver involved in Saturday's limousine crash.  The New York Post says Scott Lisinicchia not only did not have the proper license to be driving the vehicle, but had been arrested twice, in 2010 and 2013, on drug charges. In 2013 he was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of marijuana and an equipment violation in Saratoga Springs.

There are also reports that flaws in the limo's hydraulic brakes were found during DOT inspections in March and again in September.

The State police have now seized three other limos owned by Prestige, and are interviewing company officials.  The New York State DMV is now seeking a cease and desist order to stop Prestige Limo from operating until the investigation is complete.

The investigation is now in the hands of the National Transportation Safety Board.

The owner of the limo company that was involved in this weekend's deadly crash in Schohaire was reportedly an FBI informant.  The limo was operated by Prestige Limousine, which is owned by Shahed Hussain.  Hussain immigrated to the U.S. in the 1990s and was arrested for allegedly helping immigrants cheat on driver's tests. He turned government witness in 2002 and testified in two terrorism cases, one involving a bomb plot against a Bronx synagogue.

On Monday, the law firm representing Prestige Limousine released this statement:

"Prestige Limousine extends its deepest condolences to the family members and friends of those who tragically lost their lives on Saturday. We are performing a detailed internal investigation to determine the cause of the accident and the steps we can take in order to prevent future accidents. We have voluntarily taken our fleet of vehicles off of the road during the investigation. We have already met with State and Federal investigators, and plan to do so again, as it is our goal to provide answers as quickly as possible. Any questions or further inquiries should be directed to Lee Kindlon of The Kindlon Law Firm."

Chairman Robert Sumwalt calls the toll horrific, and says this is the deadliest transportation crash since the February, 2009 crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 outside Buffalo, in which 49 people were killed. 

In our area, this is the worst such incident since the sinking of the Ethan Allen tour boat on Lake George in 2005, which also killed 20 men and women.

State Police have set up a hotline for families who fear a loved one may have died in the crash. That number is 877-672-4911. 

The Apple Barrel Country Store is located at the bottom of a hill with not much warning of a stop sign ahead. 

It's a "T" intersection, with no indication of a stop sign until you're about 200 feet from the bottom. Here's a Google image of that intersection.

Schoharie Town Supervisor Alan Tavenner says there have been numerous accidents at that spot over the years, and adds it's simply a bad situation. 

WGY asked him, what happens now? Tavenner says DOT did make improvements some years ago, but believes they didn't help in this case.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara agrees that the state should probably take a close look at this spot.

While the circumstances of the accident and the names of the victims have not been officially released, multiple media reports now say passengers in the limo included Amy Steenburg of Amsterdam, who was celebrating her 30th birthday, he husband Axel, Axel's brother Rich, Amy's three sisters and a brother-in-law. One of Amy's sisters, Abby, was a teacher in the Amsterdam school district. All of them lived in Amsterdam. 

Also in the limo; newlyweds Erin and Shane McGowan. She and husband Adam leave behind two young daughters. 

A Go Fund Me page has been established for the girls, to find out more CLICK HERE.

An estimated 2,000 people poured into downtown Amsterdam Monday night for a vigil to remember and honor the lives of the 20 people who died in Saturday's limousine crash in Schoharie County.

Listen to WGY for the latest information.

Photo: WNYT

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