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Limo involved in crash that killed 20 never should have been on the road, New York governor says

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The limousine involved in an accident that killed 20 people in upstate New York on Saturday, including two pedestrians and all those riding inside, failed an inspection last month and should not have been on the road, according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“The owner of the company had no business putting a failed vehicle on the road,” Cuomo said on Monday while speaking to press.

Cuomo also said the driver of the vehicle, identified by multiple law enforcement officials as Scott Lisnicchia, 53, did not have the specific license — a commercial driver’s license with a passenger endorsement — required to drive the limousine.

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It is still not clear whether the limousine crash was the driver’s fault or a vehicle malfunction, Cuomo said, but that the National Transportation Safety Board and state police were investigating.

Prestige Limousine, the company responsible for the vehicle, was being sent a cease and desist until the investigation is complete, Cuomo said. The company later said in a statement they are voluntarily taking all their cars off the road while an internal investigation is conducted.

“Prestige Limousine extends its deepest condolences to the family members and friends of those who tragically lost their lives on Saturday. We are performing a detailed internal investigation to determine the cause of the accident and the steps we can take in order to prevent future accidents,” the statement said.

Cuomo said the limousine was a “chopped vehicle,” meaning it had been cut and elongated and needed federal certification that it had been extended in a way that is compliant with the law, which it did not have.

“I think the owner of Prestige has a lot of questions to answer,” Cuomo said.

He added that current laws and policies in New York state should have prevented the crash, but those laws and policies were broken in this case.

Later Monday, New York State Police Major Robert Patnaude said at a news conference that investigators had seized three other vehicles from the company in addition to the one involved in the crash.

“That company and that vehicle have been under scrutiny from the [Department of Transportation] in the past,” he said.

Patnaude said police had located the owner of the limousine company and that he was currently in Pakistan.

Prestige Limousine, of Gansevort, New York, is owned by Shahed Hussain and is operated by Hussain’s son, according to the company’s attorney.

The owner of the company worked as a former FBI informant in several terrorism cases, according to multiple federal law enforcement officials, public records, and an attorney for the limo company.

Multiple federal law enforcement officials told NBC News that Hussain was an FBI informant and that he testified in terrorism cases which were public.

Two prominent cases involved a pizzeria owner and an imam at an Albany mosque in 2004 and in a separate case involving a plot in the Bronx in 2009.

Neither Hussain nor his son have been accused of any wrongdoing in Saturday’s tragic accident.

Patnaude added at the news conference that he believed the victims had tried to hire a different vehicle “but it canceled for some reason” and then the group ended up with the stretch limousine.

Police were analyzing any post-crash data from the the vehicle’s airbag control module, which Patnaude described as what would be considered the limousine’s “black box.”

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said at the news conference that officials were working to determine if the vehicle was converted into a limousine in accordance with federal regulations and if its seat configuration, two in the front and 17 in the back, “may have contributed to the injuries.”

The accident occurred Saturday afternoon when the driver failed to stop at an intersection in Schoharie, New York, and careened into a parking lot before crashing into an unoccupied SUV, which struck the pedestrians, authorities said.

The limo had been rented as part of a 30th birthday celebration, according to Barbara Douglas, the aunt of Amy Steenburg, who was killed in the accident.

Amy Steenburg’s husband, Axel Steenburg, along with Abigail and Adam Jackson, Mary and Rob Dyson, and Allison King were among the 18 people killed in the limousine.

“I’ve been on the board for 12 years and this is one of the biggest losses of life that we’ve seen in a long, long time,” Sumwalt said at a news conference on Sunday

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