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As 2018 Ends, Questions Remain About Schoharie Limo Crash That Killed 20

Those gathered at the Amsterdam vigil heard words of scripture from the Reverend Kent McHeard.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Those gathered at the Amsterdam vigil heard words of scripture from the Reverend Kent McHeard.

It was a stunning tragedy with ripple effects across the Capital Region: the death of 20 people in a limo crash in Schoharie in October. It may be the biggest area news story of the year.

The afternoon of October 6, 2018, a stretch limousine packed with revelers headed to a 30th birthday party ran a stop sign at the junction of New York state routes 30 and 30A and slammed into an SUV parked outside a store before coming to rest in a nearby field.

Officials called it the deadliest transportation accident in the country in nine years.

20 people died —  17 relatives and friends in the limo, its driver and two pedestrians run down in the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store in Schoharie.

Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Congressman Paul Tonko choked back tears as he addressed the crowd.

The following Tuesday evening a massive candlelight vigil was held in Amsterdam, 25 miles north of the crash site, home to many of the victims, as well as Congressman Paul Tonko.   "Amsterdam is my home and home town. I've always known it to be a loving community. As I gather with you this evening, I see it manifested in a very powerful expression. Look at the bridge, filled with people, the walkway, filled with people. To the family members, know your loved ones are loved by their community."

The next day, 28-year-old Nauman Hussain, the limousine company operator, was charged with criminally negligent homicide.

New York State Police Superintendent George Beach:    "Hussain, the operator of Prestige Limo in Saratoga County, was issued written violations by the New York State Police, and the New York State Department of Transportation, that the driver he hired should not have been operating the type of vehicle involved in Saturday's crash. Also, that vehicle was placed out of service by the Department of Transportation in September of this year and should not have been on the road."

Credit NYSP
Nauman Hussain

Nauman pleaded not guilty. His father Shahed Hussain owns the company. Albany activist Lynne Jackson:  "I'm so sad about what happened in Schoharie. Schoharie's a small place. FBI infomrat Shahed Hussain, who owns the limousine company, he was arrested around 2001 for 80 felonies at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Had he been prosecuted and deported at that time, probably none of this would have ever happened, but instead, he became an informant for the FBI."

Hussain, last known to be living in Pakistan, was involved in the arrests of Albany Imam Yassin Aref and pizza-shop owner Mohammed Hossain, along with the terrorism case involving the so-called "Newburgh Four."

Speaking on the eve of 2019, Schoharie Town Supervisor Alan Tavenner says they're still waiting for NTSB investigation results.    "Right now we don't really know any more than we did a week or so after it happened, unfortunately. Fundraising for a memorial is proceeding. Folks still stop by there. You still drive by every once in a while and see somebody coming to visit the site where it happened."

Amsterdam Mayor Micheal Villa says the community is still grieving three months later.   "This will be with us for a long long time. A tragedy that touched so many lives and changed so many lives. The city has reached out to many of the families and just try to be supportive as we can in whatever efforts we can do to ease that burden."

Several of the families are moving ahead with lawsuits. NTSB officials say they still have not been able to fully examine the limousine.

Limousine Passengers:

Axel J. Steenburg, 29, Amsterdam, NY
Richard M. Steenburg, 34, Johnstown, NY
Amy L. Steenburg, 29, Amsterdam, NY
Allison King, 31, Ballston Spa, NY
Mary E. Dyson, 33, Watertown, NY
Robert J. Dyson, 34, Watertown, NY
Abigail M. Jackson, 34, Amsterdam, NY
Matthew W. Coons, 27, Johnstown, NY
Savannah D. Bursese, 24, Johnstown, NY
Patrick K. Cushing, 31, Troy, NY
Amanda D. Halse, 26, Troy, NY
Erin R. McGowan, 34, Amsterdam, NY
Shane T. McGowan, 30, Amsterdam, NY
Amanda Rivenburg, 29, Colonie, NY
Adam G. Jackson, 34, Amsterdam, NY
Rachael K. Cavosie, 30, Waterford, NY
Michael C. Ukaj, 34, Johnstown, NY

Limousine Driver:

Scott T. Lisinicchia, 53, Lake George, NY


Brian Hough, 46, Moravia, NY
James Schnurr, 70, Kerhonkson, NY

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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