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Tonko and families of crash victims mark passage of limo safety measures in infrastructure bill

 Rep. Paul Tonko was joined by family members of victims of the 2018 Schoharie limo tragedy
Lucas Willard
Rep. Paul Tonko was joined by family members of victims of the 2018 Schoharie limo tragedy

The recently passed $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure package includes several measures related to limousine safety. Congressman Paul Tonko gathered with families of the victims from the 2018 Schoharie limo tragedy to mark its passage Friday.

Joining several of the family members at Amsterdam City Hall, Representative Paul Tonko, a Democrat from the 20th District, applauded their efforts in helping craft safety legislation at both the state and federal level.

“They stood. They stood with me and my colleagues every step of the way, fighting for it to become law. They gathered support, prepared for hearings, called and wrote to members of Congress and staff members. They shared their stories, painfully, time and time again, and refused to allow inaction,” said Tonko.

The limo safety measures included in the federal infrastructure bill will fund states to impound unsafe vehicles, mandate the U.S. Department of Transportation establish a mandatory annual inspection program, require limo operators to share vehicle inspection data with customers, and create a formal definition of limousine in federal statute, among other provisions.

It comes just over a month after the third anniversary of the crash that killed 20 people, and two months after a criminal trial where Naumann Hussain, operator of the limousine company involved in the crash, pleaded guilty to 20 counts of criminally negligent homicide for five years’ probation and 1,000 hours of community service.

Kevin Cushing, who lost his son Patrick in the crash, reflected on the effort to pass legislation during a painful time.

“Let me start by noting that this have been another very difficult year for all of our families, with the recent and very disappointing criminal trial result. Justice simply wasn’t served for our families. Having said that, that’s not why we’re here today. Today, with the passage of the infrastructure bill, we take a major step forward in making the limousine industry a safer industry,” said Cushing.

Cushing thanked Tonko, Congressman Antonio Delgado and Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, all Democrats, for pushing for the passage of the bill.

Jill Richardson-Perez, whose son Matthew Coons died in the tragedy, said when she thinks of what the families have accomplished, she thinks of the children affected most.

“There are children that have been left behind from this tragedy that some of us have also made a promise. We promised to look out for their futures. We are going to take them under our wing make sure this world is a better place for them now. And we have just done that,” said Richardson-Perez.

Tonko, who like many of the crash victims hails from Amsterdam, told the families that their work and their loved ones would be forever connected to the new safety laws.

“I could not be prouder to call you my friends and colleagues in this effort, and partners in this endeavor. I feel that we have this bond that will live forever. And I also have a vision of great young adults gathered together applauding this in another world, knowing that this lesson, painfully learned is making a difference,” said Tonko.

President Joe Biden is expected to sign the infrastructure bill on Monday.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.