SCHOHARIE N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – After a limousine crash that killed 20 people in upstate New York, there are growing concerns about the potential dangers of these vehicles.
When it comes to modified stretch limos, oversight is usually handled by state and city officials.
“I was told it was the very last picture ever taken,” Paul Schulman said.
That last picture was of eight young women together, heading out for a birthday celebration one summer day in 2015. It was supposed to be a fun day of wine tasting on Long Island, but their stretch limousine was hit broadside by a truck after the driver of the limo made a U-turn.
“The ending to this day is just… it’s worse than a horror movie,” Nancy Dimonte added.
Nancy Dimonte’s 25-year-old daughter Joelle sustained serious injuries, as did three other passengers.
The other four women were killed, including Paul Schulman’s 23-year-old daughter Brittany.
“It’s been nothing but hell since. People say time heals wounds. How do you? How do you go around life and people think things get better when you lose a piece of you that you never get back?” Schulman said.
Just two years later, in 2018, came the limousine accident in Schoharie, New York that claimed 20 lives.
It’s not just one state, limousine safety standards vary widely across the country.
Dave Lipsky inspects stretch limousines for the New York Department of Transportation. He says lacking tighter regulations, custom builders sometimes cut corners, prioritizing luxury over safety.
“So what they would do is put a beautiful bar in there, beautiful seating, and all the amenities to have the niceness, and put the weakness in the infrastructure,” Lipsky explained.
For example, he showed CBS’ Anna Werner a crash bar installed in a stretch limo brought into his shop for inspection.
“See that little thing there? Yeah see how hollow it is, nice and tiny,” Lipsky said.
It’s supposed to protect passengers in the event of a crash, but…
“You see how I can bend this with my hand, I literally can take this, I can move it,” Lipsky demonstrated.
“So a car hitting the side of that is that’s not going to be any resistance at all is it?” Werner asked.
“There’s no resistance there,” Lipsky replied.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer is now calling on the national transportation safety board to put more emphasis on major safety reforms nationwide.
“They haven’t made it a priority. Limos fall in between the cracks. You can make a limo in one state and it drives in another state and there’s nothing that that second state can do about it. The safety of a limo is no different in Montana, Texas, Florida, or New York. So there should be one standard,” Schumer said.
In a statement to CBS News, the NTSB said it shares Sen. Schumer’s concerns and have made one safety recommendation for limos this year: directing passengers to use seat belts where required by law.
They’re also encouraging the use of seat belts and head restraints where not required by law. The National Limo Association says it’s committed to raising safety standards and is prepared to support “prudent and consequential safety regulations.”