When the limousine crashed into the ravine behind the Apple Barrel Country Store almost one year ago in Schoharie, it was not survivable for the driver. That is according to a report released by the National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday morning.
"The occupiable space, the survival space of the driver's component, was completely gone," said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.
However, the report found the passenger section was relatively intact with space for the occupants to survive. The NTSB says if seat belts were properly installed and used, things could have been different.
"That's hard to say due to the crash or the impact forces involved," Sumwalt said, when asked if the passengers could have survived with seat belts. "However we do know properly installed and properly used lap/shoulder belts increase the chances of survivability."
These findings led to several recommendations by the NTSB — including proposing New York to extend its mandatory seat belt laws to include limo passengers.
The NTSB also recommends the state department of transportation to check seat belts in limos as part of the regular state inspection process — something the DOT said in a statement, they already do.
"We just want the state of New York DOT to ensure those seat belts are installed, available, and functional," Sumwalt said.
Currently, limos in New York are not required to have seat belts for passengers in the back. Right now, the Senate and Assembly have each approved their own version of a law that would change that, but the bills do not match.
"All of our constituents, New Yorkers, are in danger by antiquated laws right now," said State Senator Jim Tedisco, who's district was home to several of the victims.
Tedisco says calling on state legislative leaders to hold a special session immediately. Tedisco wants lawmakers in both chambers to work together so these bills can be voted on and sent to the governor's desk.
"Any delay in that, I feel is a failure on the legislature of the state of New York," Tedisco said.
The state investigation has found the crash was caused by catastrophic brake failure. The NTSB has not made the same determination because they say they are still analyzing the brakes.