The owner of the upstate death limo was ordered to keep it off the road after it failed a safety inspection last month, the state Department of Transportation said Tuesday.
“The vehicle was subject to inspections, and the owner was warned not to operate the vehicle,” DOT spokesman Joseph Morrissey said in a statement. “The vehicle was placed out of service.”
Morrissey’s comments countered claims by Prestige Limousine earlier in the day that all the problems with the customized 2001 Ford Excursion had been fixed ahead of Saturday’s crash — with the DOT spokesman calling the assertion “categorically false.”
Meanwhile, it surfaced that Prestige tried to unload the limo just two days before the wreck that killed 20 — and more disturbing details on the hunk of junk’s dangerous condition were reported.
A Craigslist posting dated Thursday offered the customized 2001 Ford Excursion stretch limo for sale for just $9,000. The listing noted that the ride could have been bought even cheaper, with a notation saying “obo” — classified-ad shorthand for “or best offer.”
The ad says the vehicle had 180,000 miles on its odometer but was in “excellent” condition and “Dot [DOT] Ready full serviced.”
The owner’s name wasn’t included, but the telephone contact number was the same as the one used by several companies linked to Prestige owner and former FBI informant Shahed Hussain, 62, whom the state police have said was out of the country.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday said the limo failed a DOT inspection last month that found fault with its “suspension system, chassis system, braking system.”
But the vehicle also failed an earlier one, on March 21, according to the Albany Times Union, which also first reported the Craigslist ad.
The paper obtained copies of documents filed after both inspections that detailed serious issues with the limo’s brake system, including connections with constrictions, brakes out of service and a malfunction of the anti-lock braking system indicators.
The September inspection also found defective emergency exits and noted a “failure to correct defects noted on previous inspection report,” the paper said.
Prestige lawyer Lee Kindlon on Tuesday denied that the violations caused the limo to blow past a stop sign at the bottom of a hill, then hurtle through a parking lot and smash into a drainage ditch in Schoharie.
“I don’t think that these infractions were what led to the tragedy,” Kindlon told CBS News.
Kindlon also said the “safety issues had been addressed and corrected.”
In another interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Kindlon disputed the assertions by Cuomo, who also warned of potential “legal consequences.”
“We understand what the governor is saying, what the DOT is saying, certainly it is in their interests to point away from any failures on behalf of the state,” Kindlon said.
“But as we understand right now, the inspections last month were minor things, windshield wipers, a latch on a windshield that needed to be fixed.”
A lawyer for the family of limo driver Scott Lisinicchia, who died in the crash, put the blame on the vehicle.
“The family believes that unbeknownst to him he was provided with a vehicle that was neither roadworthy nor safe for any of its occupants,” lawyer George Longworth said in a statement.
Authorities have said Lisinicchia, who was busted for drug possession in 2010 and 2013, did not have the “Passenger Transport” endorsement on his license that was needed to operate the limo.
Cuomo ordered that flags on state property be flown at half-staff starting Thursday until all the crash victims — who included three state employees — were buried.
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