The limousine involved in the deadly crash Saturday that killed 20 people failed an inspection by the New York State DMV last month and was not supposed to be on the road, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.
“The owner of the company had no business putting a failed vehicle on the road,” said Cuomo.
The limousine was traveling southwest on Route 30 in Schoharie, north of New York City, and failed to stop at an intersection with State Route 30A, state police said. The vehicle sped across the intersection and into the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store, where it smashed into an unoccupied vehicle and two pedestrians.
Both pedestrians and all 18 people in the limousine, including the driver, were killed in the crash.
It is the deadliest transportation incident in the US since the 2009 plane crash near Buffalo that killed 50 people, said Robert Sumwalt, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Cuomo said Monday that the driver of the limo did not have the required license to be driving the vehicle. The governor added that the limo company, Prestige Limousine, will be sent a cease and desist order to stop operations until an investigation into the crash is complete.
New York state police have seized three other of the company's vehicles as part of their investigation.
Prestige Limousine has undergone five inspections resulting in four vehicles taken out of service in the past 24 months, according to federal records reviewed by BuzzFeed News.
The cause of the wreck is still under investigation. A team from the NTSB was at the scene to investigate the crash and expected to be there through the week.
One of the victims of the crash reportedly expressed concern about the safety of the vehicle on Saturday, according to the New York Times. The group had originally tried to book a vehicle through another company, then when that fell through, they found Prestige Limousine as they scrambled for a replacement, state police said.
Melissa Healey told the Times she received a text message from her friend Erin McGowan telling her the limo was in poor condition.
“The motor is making everyone deaf,” McGowan wrote in a text reviewed by the Times. “When we get to brewery we will all b deaf.”
On Monday, NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said the investigation would look at the mechanical conditions of the Ford Excursion and if it was converted to a limousine according to federal regulations. Investigators would also look at road conditions and the driver's actions before and during the crash.
What's clear is there was a "high-energy impact," Sumwalt said, adding the engine compartment was pushed back past the driver's seat. It's not yet known how far the limo was driving, if the driver applied the brakes, or if passengers were wearing seatbelts; they're not required to under New York law.
"We know that a car apparently ran a stop sign and had a tragic result," Sumwalt said. "We’re here not to find out just what happened, but why it happened. And our ultimate goal is to keep this from happening again."
Melissa Healey’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.