Relatives of some of the 20 people killed in an upstate New York stretch limousine crash urged quick action on safety legislation Thursday so other families won’t have to endure the grief they have carried for the past year.
A half-dozen relatives joined Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and congressional representatives to promote new federal legislation that would tighten safety standards for limousines like the one that sped through a T-intersection and slammed into an embankment on Oct. 6, 2018. The driver, 17 passengers on a birthday outing and two pedestrians were killed in the crash in rural Schoharie.
Kevin Cushing, who lost his 31-year-old son Patrick in the crash, urged lawmakers to act on “life-saving” legislation.
“We are hearing that both the federal and state representatives have been working very hard on limousine safety legislation that will help ensure that other families need not go through this type of senseless tragedy and the pain that we’re feeling will never happen again,” Cushing told a news conference.
Cushing specifically urged Congressional leaders to act promptly on a trio of limousine bills Schumer and the local representatives plan to formally introduce soon.
The legislation would require each new limousine to have lap and shoulder belts for each seat and would require each new limousine seat to meet new safety requirements. Parts of the legislation echo recommendations made Wednesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The legislation also would amend the definition of a commercial motor vehicle to ensure that it covers all vehicles used to transport more than 15 people, including limousines that were modified after their initial sale.
Flanked by relatives, U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko said the legislation he and fellow Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado are sponsoring would address “gaping loopholes” in limousine regulations.
“No has carried the wounds more than families who have lost their loved ones – loved ones to a limousine that should never, ever have been allowed on the road. Total irresponsibility,” Tonko said.
Prosecutors allege the limo company’s operator, Nauman Hussain, allowed an improperly licensed driver to operate an “unserviceable” vehicle. Hussain has pleaded not guilty to criminally negligent homicide, and his lawyer has said investigators rushed to judgment.
Advocates for the legislation gathered days before the year anniversary of the crash, though Cushing says he disagrees with calling it an anniversary because the word is associated with celebrations.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “many celebration opportunities such as family holidays, weddings and birthdays have been lost to us forever with the passing of our dear loved ones.”
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