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Driver in deadly limo crash did not have proper license; vehicle had recently failed inspection

By Trevor Boyer, Stephen Rex Brown, Danielle Cinone, Esha Ray and Peter Sblendorio • Updated Oct 8, 2018 at 7:06 PM

The man behind the wheel in the deadly New York limousine crash did not have the proper license and the vehicle had failed an inspection just last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Speaking at the Columbus Day Parade, Cuomo told reporters that DMV officials had recently inspected the limo and that it should not have been on the road. The limo crashed on Saturday, killing the driver, Scott Lisinicchia, and all 19 passengers.

Lisinicchia, 53, blew through a stop sign about 45 miles east of Albany and crashed into the parking lot of a popular tourist destination, Apple Barrel Country Store and Cafe. His 17 passengers — including a newlywed couple — were killed in the crash. Two pedestrians were also killed.

“He was a great guy,” said Thea Broadus Griggs, a friend of Lisinicchia’s since high school who started a GoFundMe to help with funeral costs.

The driver’s wife, Kim Lisinicchia, wrote on Facebook that she’d lost her best friend.

“It hurts me to a core to have to bury my husband. I miss him so very much. … I love you Scott,” she wrote.

The driver’s niece, Courtney Lisinicchia, asked for prayers.

“Don’t believe what they say. My family is going through a really rough time and social media is always twisting everything around. The investigation is STILL going on and the facts are not verified,” she wrote online.

The National Transportation Safety Board is inspecting the crash, which is the deadliest transportation disaster since a 2009 plane crash near Buffalo, N.Y., that killed 50 people.

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Sisters, newlyweds among the victims in upstate New York limousine crash

A celebration of life turned into tragedy on a roadside in upstate New York.

The horrific limousine crash in upstate New York on Sunday tragically took the lives of multiple young couples, beloved siblings and parents to young children in what was the country’s deadliest transportation accident since 2009.

Twenty people lost their lives in Schoharie when the 2001 Ford vehicle hurtled through an intersection, rammed into a parked SUV and ended up in a ravine.

Here’s what we know about the victims so far.

Amy and Axel Steenburg

The 18 people who were riding in the limousine had come together for what family members said was a celebration for Amy’s 30th birthday party. She and Axel, 29, had married in Saratoga on June 30.

Amy shared a heartfelt message about her husband to Facebook on Wednesday in what’s believed to be her final post to the site.

“I just wanted to say Axel Steenburg I love you more than words can say! You are such an amazing man and entertain all my crazy ideas,” she wrote. “Even when I move a couch just to move it back to the original place. Thank you for being so kind and loving xo #justbecause #husband.”

Abby Jackson, Allison King and Mary Dyson

Amy’s three sisters were also killed in the crash. Mary was a veteran of the Army who had been working at the Watertown office for Upstate Construction Services, according to the local news station WNNY-TV. Abby had been employed as a teacher in the Amsterdam School District, according to the Times Union.

Adam Jackson

Abby’s husband was a passenger in the limo as well. He and Amy were parents to a pair of daughters — 4-year-old Archer and 16-month-old, Elle — according to a GoFundMe page set up to help their kids.

“Adam and Abby were amazing parents to these girls and taken much too soon,” the online fundraising campaign reads. “While families will step in and provide loving care for these girls, there will be expenses that we can help with during this time when we otherwise feel so helpless.”

Rich Steenburg

Rich, 34, was Axel Steenburg’s older brother. They worked together at GlobalFoundries, a company that engineers semiconductors. Rich was the father to a 10-year-old daughter, and the stepfather to a 14-year-old stepson, according to The New York Times.

Rob Dyson

Rob, who was Mary Dyson’s husband, was one of the victims as well, according to NBC News.

Shane McGowan and Erin Vertucci McGowan

Shane, 30, and Erin, 34, had married in June 2018.

Shane worked as a Hearing Instrument Specialist at Fraser Enterprises in Albany, according to his LinkedIn. Erin worked at St. Mary’s Hospital in Albany as a health information technician.

Patrick Cushing and Amanda Halse

Patrick, 31, was Erin’s cousin. He and his girlfriend Amanda, 26, both died in the crash. He worked for the New York State Senate and played for a U.S. Dodgeball team.

“Pat’s passion for the sport and always present laughter were infectious to those lucky enough to play alongside or against him,” the US Dodgeball team said.

Patrick lived with Amanda in Troy, N.Y.

“She was such a charismatic person and she just wanted to make sure everyone was happy and I’m so grateful that she was my sister out of everyone else on this earth,” Karina Halse said of her sister Amanda on Good Morning America.

Scott Lisinicchia

Scott, 53, was identified as the driver of the limo by his twin brother, according Syracuse news station WTVH-TV.

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Owner of limo that crashed was FBI informant who testified in terrorism trials

The owner of the limousine company linked to the deadliest U.S. transportation accident in nine years is no stranger to the law.

Shahed Hussain, who owns Prestige Limousine, served as an FBI informant in two terrorism cases after pleading guilty to a federal fraud charge in 2002.

A state official confirmed Hussain’s bizarre history to The Albany Times Union.

Now, Hussain faces the prospect of an avalanche of lawsuits for the crash that killed 20 people, as well as possible criminal charges.

On Monday, two days after the crash, Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed that the driver of the limo did not have the proper license and that the vehicle had failed an inspection just last month.

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

Court records show that federal prosecutors credited Hussain, a Pakistani immigrant, with providing “substantial assistance” in 2006.

At the time, prosecutors said he’d assisted in a fraud and drug case involving 12 individuals. He’d also testified in the terrorism sting of an Albany imam, Yassin Aref, and Bangladeshi pizzeria owner Mohammed Hossain. The pair were convicted of laundering money for a fake terrorism plot set up by the feds and each sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Hussain also served as an FBI informant in the controversial case of the Newburgh Four.

In that case, Hussain posed as a wealthy radicalized Muslim who befriended four men eventually convicted of plotting to shoot down U.S. military planes with a Stinger missile and set off bombs at Jewish targets in Riverdale area of the Bronx. The government faced criticism for the case because Hussain was seen as organizing the scheme and urging on the participants. Nevertheless, the four men, James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen were convicted, thanks in part to Hussain’s testimony.

The work as an FBI informant paid well, according to “The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism.” The book by journalist Trevor Aaronson reported that Hussain used the money he earned from the FBI to buy the Crest Inn Suites & Cottages in Gansevoort.

The seedy inn also served as the business address for Hussain’s limo company. A longtime resident of the inn said that for at least two years Hussain kept limos on the property and seemed to care little about safety.

“As long as they get money, they don’t care who’s getting In their vehicles,” the resident, Laken Prosser, 31, said.

Efforts to reach Hussein were unsuccessful Monday. Prosser said he had recently returned to Pakistan.

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©2018 New York Daily News

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