First limo lawsuit filed in Schoharie crash

N. Hussain

ALBANY — The attorney involved in filing the first civil lawsuit for a victim of the Oct. 6 limousine crash in Schoharie that claimed 20 lives said Monday he’s seeking answers.

“We can’t do what everybody wants us to do, which is turn back the clock,” said Albany attorney Salvatore Ferlazzo.

His firm, Girvin & Ferlazzo PC, filed a lawsuit Monday in state Supreme Court. The 11-page document, filed at the Albany County Clerk’s Office, was filed by the parents of crash victim Amanda R. Rivenburg — Thomas and Donna Rivenburg. The 29-year-old woman had resided in Colonie and was employed at a non-profit that helps people who have disabilities, Ferlazzo said.

“Prior to her death, decedent Amanda R. Rivenburg was a healthy young woman who attended and was able to perform her usual personal and employment duties, and who contributed to the support of her family, and by virtue of her wrongful death, her family was deprived of her comfort and society and of her support, and they have been otherwise particularly damaged …” the lawsuit states.

No specific damages being sought were indicated in the lawsuit.

This was the first civil suit filed in connection with the Oct. 6 limo accident. The lawsuit names Gansevoort-based Prestige Limousine & Chauffeur Service owner Shahed Hussain, believed to be in Pakistan, and his son, Nauman Hussain, who has pleaded not guilty to a charge of criminally negligent homicide. Nauman Hussain is free on $150,000 bond, but faces action in Schoharie County Court.

But Ferlazzo said the family of Rivenburg also want to focus on exactly what happened, such as the condition of the limo and the makeup of the road situation.

State police said the 2001 Ford Excursion Prestige Limousine vehicle coming from Saratoga County on Oct. 6 had been traveling downhill toward the intersection of Route 30 and 30A in the town near the Apple Barrel Country Store. Troopers said the stretch limo failed to stop, crossing the highway before hitting an unoccupied SUV in the parking lot of the Apple Barrel, and two pedestrians nearby. The limousine then crashed into a shallow ravine, troopers said.

“The family wants to know who is responsible,” Ferlazzo said.

He said “multiple” people failed in allowing the limo to be on the road. Any legal action, he said, “can certainly help gather some information.”

Ferlazzo said that at “every level” the Oct. 6 crash is “disturbing,” including the loss of a group of “beautiful people.”

The lawsuit notes that at about 1:55 p.m. Oct. 6, Rivenburg and others were passengers in the limo.

“The Ford Excursion had been inspected by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles in March of 2018, and was issued violations for, among other things, having 18 seats installed, which was in excess of its designed passenger capacity of 10 seats,” the suit notes. “As a result of the failed March 2018 inspection, defendants were ordered to cease and desist from further limousine operations by the DMV until further notice.”

Other allegations in court papers point to a September 2018 inspection by DMV and failed inspection for “failing to have a federal certificate to operate, as well as mechanical issues concerning the brake systems, defective emergency exits and defective windshield wipers.”

The lawsuit says DMV placed an “unserviceable” sticker on the limo in September.

“Upon information and belief, defendants and/or their agents removed the ‘unserviceable’ sticker from the windshield before dispatching it to pick up [Rivenburg] and the other occupants of the Ford Excursion on Oct. 6, 2018,” the suit said.

The limousine driver killed was Scott T. Lisinicchia, 53, of Lake George.

The lawsuit says he “did not have the proper license to operate the Ford Excursion.” The suit also alleges that Lisinicchia picked passengers up in Amsterdam and was “traveling at a high rate of speed and above the legal speed limit” when he approached a stop sign at Routes 30 and 30A in the town of Schoharie.

Court papers state: “The Ford Excursion failed to and/or was unable to stop at the stop sign and travelled through the intersection of State Route 30 and State Route 30A. The Ford Excursion travelled into the nearby parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store, striking a parked 2015 Toyota Highlander, which in turn struck and killed two pedestrians in the parking lot. The Ford Excursion then traveled into a ravine, striking trees and other foliage at which point it was forced to come to a complete stop.”

The suit says Rivenburg “was aware that the vehicle was no longer under control, particularly after it was unable to stop and struck a parked vehicle, and thereafter became aware that a crash was impending which would cause her and others serious injuries and/or death.”

Ferlazzo said Rivenburg was friends with several of the people killed.

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

Pedestrians standing in the Apple Barrel lot killed were Brian Hough, 46, Moravia; and James Schnurr, 70, Kerhonkson.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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