ALBANY  — The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending that the state Department of Transportation adopt the recommendations of a 2014 audit by the state comptroller’s office that found that the DOT did not follow up enough to ensure that commercial vehicles that had been placed out-of-service had the required repairs done to make them safe.

The recommendation was one of six that the NTSB adopted Tuesday as part of its examination of the 2018 limousine crash in Schoharie that killed 20 people.

The NTSB found that in addition to the ” egregious disregard for safety” by the Wilton-based limousine service, Prestige Limousine, that owned the 2001 stretch Ford Excursion involved in the crash, the DOT and the state Department of Motor Vehicles were also to blame for inadequate oversight of Prestige, owned by the Hussain family.

The DOT inspected the Excursion in May and September of 2018, putting an out-of-service sticker on the limo each time that was not supposed to be removed until required repairs and certifications were completed.

“Although the NYSDOT was aware that Prestige Limousine was operating, it failed to verify whether Prestige Limousine had made vehicle safety repairs, required due to out-of-service vehicle inspection violations, which enabled the carrier to continue transporting passengers in limousines that had serious safety deficiencies,” a summary report published Tuesday by the NTSB states.

A more in-depth final report on the NTSB’s investigation and findings will be released in the coming weeks as final edits are made.

The NTSB members said they were outraged that the DOT did not physically impound the Excursion after either of the two roadside inspections. Such roadside inspections, which can be done by DOT inspectors or the state or local police, are funded through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program.

They also said that the DOT did not follow the recommendations of the 2014 audit or a similar one done in 2003.

DOT officials told NTSB staffers and board members that they did not believe that the DOT had the legal authority to take the Excursion off the road at the time, although the DOT and the State Police seized the license plate of 59 limousines across the state in the weeks after the fatal crash, one of the worst highway disasters in more than a decade.

“They did have the opportunity to do more,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said during Tuesday’s meeting as the board debated whether to list the DOT’s actions in the report’s “probable cause” section. “Unfortunately, they missed an opportunity.”

The 2014 comptroller audit, which covered the period from Oct. 1, 2008 to June 17, 2013,  found that the DOT did not monitor whether or not commercial vehicle owners submitted required repair certifications to the department after violations were found.

“As a result, 39 percent of the certifications for out-of-service violations during our audit period were not submitted, while 26 percent were submitted late,” the comptroller’s audit found.

The NTSB tracks how regulatory bodies and groups like trade associations follow up on its recommendations on its website. In the past, the DOT has successfully complied with NTSB recommendations.

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