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Letters reveal tension between NTSB and Schoharie County D.A.

Schoharie Limo Crash.jpg

SCHOHARIE COUNTY, NY (WRGB) The heightened tension began on December 19th.

That was the day Liz Bishop broke the story that the NTSB had written to the Schoharie County D.A. Susan Mallery, demanding she give them access to the limousine, saying public safety was at stake.

She said at the time it was not her decision, but the court's mandate.

Nearly two weeks later on December 31st, Mallery sent out a letter to the agency enclosing a supplemental search warrant asking the NTSB to approve it and send it on the Schoharie County Judge George Bartlett for action.

But then, just a few days later on January 7th, the NTSB writes to the judge himself, saying hold up. It pleads with Judge Bartlett to allow it to begin its safety investigation and accuses D.A.. Mallery of a lack of candor, saying the agency was never told that supplemental search warrant left it out of the picture or that it had a deadline to respond. It called Mallery's quote "...level of obstruction...deeply concerning."

The purpose of that supplemental search warrant was to authorize only New York State and police and their expert to “remove, disassemble and inspect the transmission and torque converter from the crash vehicle."

The NTSB attorney said the agency “categorically opposed that if "...such a search would necessarily result in altering and/or destroying physical evidence....is conducted without NTSB investigators being present and actively participating..." in the process.

The letter went on to say if the NTSB were excluded it would be the 2nd time major work was performed on the limo with the federal government denied access The agency wrote that "further destruction of the vehicle and removal of parts" before it puts its initial inspection protocol in place could affect their ability to determine the vehicle's role in the probable cause of the crash" and to propose safety recommendations.

Finally, on January 9th, Judge Bartlett weighed in, making it clear "...it was never this court's intention that any of its issued search warrants be construed so as to deny NTSB access..."

The judge concludes, "...it appears the easiest way to break this impasse is to include the NTSB on the search warrant." and to make that happen, he ordered all parties to submit language for the court to insert into the search warrant to get the NTSB on board. He urged everyone to reach agreement on the language and ordered the limo to stay put untouched until issues are resolved.

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