SCHOHARIE (WRGB) This is a solemn day for so many of us -- it was two years ago on this day that 20 souls perished when a limousine went barreling down a hill with brakes that did not work and crashed in a parking lot next to the Apple Barrel store and cafe.
Seventeen young people were in the back of that limo -- most from the Amsterdam area --on their way to a birthday party. There were four sisters in the car -- and two newlywed couples.
MORE: NTSB opens docket on Schoharie Limo case
All seventeen were killed -- so too was the driver.
As were two people standing in the Apple Barrel parking lot -- a 70 year old man and his son-in-law.
“it seems like yesterday. It seems like forever.”
for Donna Rivenburg, October 6th is a day to wrap herself up in memories of her daughter and to try to get through the pain of losing her.
Her trip to the Schoharie memorial gives her both comfort and great pain.
It was a crisp fall day 2 years ago that her daughter Amanda and 16 of her friends hired a limo for a birthday celebration and were tragically killed when it blew through a stop sign at the base of a steep hill, hit another vehicle in a parking lot, killed two pedestrians and came to rest in a ditch. The force of the crash left no survivors aboard the limo.
A stunned and devastated community showed its support with massive outdoor memorials for the young friends and their devastated loved ones.
Within a day of the accident, the chairman of the NTSB was on the scene.
Within four days, the limo company operator, Nauman Hussain was arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide.
Over the next several weeks legal battles geared up. The NTSB accused Schoharie County DA Susan Mallery of blocking the agency from examining the vehicle--a battle that continued for months.
MORE: NTSB: Regulators failed at jobs in limo crash that killed 20
Within six weeks of the crash, civil suits began to emerge. over time, the families would sue Prestige Limo, New York state, and Mavis Discount Tire, which did work on the vehicle.
Attorney Cynthia LaFave said,
“Every single person had a chance to stop this from happening, whether it be the repair shop, the state, person who put that limo on the road.”
Governor Cuomo eventually introduced limo safety legislation in January, but it would be another year before the safety reforms were signed into law.
Six months after the crash, Nauman Hussain was indicted on 20 counts each of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. His case still unresolved--now held up by COVID-19 roadblocks.
Much happened near the one year anniversary. The NTSB recommended mandatory seatbelt use. We learn there was a chance for survival if the passengers had been wearing them.
MORE: Lawyers for limo operator, families of victims all say NTSB report will help their cases
Federal representatives traveled to Schoharie to announce their own safety reforms, which have since passed the House but are still hung up in the Senate.
The NTSB last week placed responsibility for the accident on Prestige Limo and its “egregious disregard for safety,” and cited the state’s poor oversight and followup.
NTSB Vice Chair Bruce Landsburg said,
“I can’t say enough negative about disregard for human life.”
An answer but little comfort for grieving mothers.
Donna Rivenburg said, “that’s what made her her"
We continue to send our deepest sympathies to all who lost loved ones two years ago today.
As for what’s next:
With the NTSB final report in just last week, there are still significant events ahead. The resolution of the criminal case against Nauman Hussain, and the civil suits moving from the discovery phase they are in now to some kind of determination in the courts. And just today Congressman Paul Tonko called on the Senate to take up his comprehensive limo safety reform legislation.