A standoff between local prosecutors and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) over access to the limousine involved in a fatal crash that killed 20 people in New York last October has been resolved.
Schoharie County Judge George Bartlett ruled on Tuesday that NTSB investigators will finally be able to perform a hands-on inspection of the vehicle involved in the nation’s deadliest transportation accident in nearly a decade.
“The NTSB was pleased to have the opportunity today to meet with Judge Bartlett to discuss our investigation. We look forward to continuing our safety investigation, and to conducting an examination of the crash vehicle,” a NTSB spokesperson told Fox News.
The modified 2001 Ford Excursion blew through a stop sign at a T-intersection on Oct. 6 in rural Schoharie, New York, and crashed beside a country store, killing the driver, 17 passengers on a birthday outing, and two pedestrians.
Schoharie County District Attorney Susan Mallery argued in letters to the court that criminal prosecution takes precedence over the NTSB’s investigation, and that her office should dictate who has access to evidence including the wreckage.
She wrote in one letter dated Jan. 16 that it was “concerning” that “politics are seemingly of much greater concern to some than justice for the victims and grieving families of the tragic limousine crash.”
But the NTSB defended its investigation, contending that it was in the “public interest” that the agency inspect the crash to discover what caused it and how to prevent similar wrecks.
Under the court agreement, NTSB can make a visual inspection of the limousine Tuesday and take photographs. Then, police experts will be clear to remove the limo’s transmission and torque converter. The NTSB can proceed with a hands-on inspection after that, within the next two weeks.
Prior to the crash, the vehicle had failed a state inspection that examined such things as the chassis, suspension and brakes.
Prosecutors allege the limo company’s operator, Nauman Hussain, allowed an improperly licensed driver to operate an “unserviceable” vehicle. He has pleaded not guilty to criminally negligent homicide; his lawyer has said investigators rushed to judgment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.