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Kin of limousine crash victims call for stricter regulations

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FILE – In this Oct. 7, 2018 file photo, a New York state trooper and members of the National Transportation Safety Board view the scene of a fatal crash that killed 20 people in Schoharie, N.Y. The National Transportation Safety Board called Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, for new seat belt requirements for limousines almost a year after a Ford Excursion SUV that had been modified into a huge stretch limo blew through a T-intersection in rural Schoharie and went into the woods. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

AMSTERDAM, N.Y. (AP) — Relatives of some of the 20 people killed in a limousine crash urged quick action on safety legislation Thursday so other families won’t have to endure the grief they have carried for the past year.

A half-dozen relatives joined Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and congressional representatives to promote new federal legislation that would tighten safety standards for limousines like the one that sped through a T-intersection in upstate New York and slammed into an embankment on Oct. 6, 2018.

The driver, 17 passengers on a birthday outing and two pedestrians were killed in the crash in rural Schoharie.

Kevin Cushing, who lost his 31-year-old son Patrick, urged lawmakers to act on what they called lifesaving legislation.

“We are hearing that both the federal and state representatives have been working very hard on limousine safety legislation that will help ensure that other families need not go through this type of senseless tragedy and the pain that we’re feeling will never happen again,” Cushing said at a news conference.

Cushing specifically urged congressional leaders to act promptly on a trio of limousine bills that Schumer and the local representatives plan to formally introduce soon.

The legislation would require new limousines to have lap and shoulder belts for each seat and would require each new limousine seat to meet new safety requirements. Parts of the legislation echo recommendations made Wednesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The legislation also would amend the definition of a commercial motor vehicle to ensure it covers all vehicles used to transport more than 15 people, including limousines modified after their initial sale.

Flanked by relatives of crash victims, U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko said the legislation he and fellow Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado are sponsoring would address “gaping loopholes” in limousine regulations.

“No has carried the wounds more than families who have lost their loved ones _ loved ones to a limousine that should never, ever have been allowed on the road,” Tonko said. “Total irresponsibility.”

Prosecutors allege the limo company’s operator, Nauman Hussain, allowed an improperly licensed driver to operate an “unserviceable” vehicle. Hussain has pleaded not guilty to criminally negligent homicide, and his lawyer has said investigators rushed to judgment.

Advocates for the legislation gathered days before the anniversary of the crash, though Cushing says he disagrees with calling it an anniversary because the word is associated with celebrations.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “many celebration opportunities such as family holidays, weddings and birthdays have been lost to us forever with the passing of our dear loved ones.”

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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