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APNewsBreak: After the deadly wreck, panel calls for limo safety

RIVERHEAD, new york – A special grand jury empaneled by a public prosecutor after a limousine crash killed four women leaving a New York winery has released a report calling for better safety rules for stretch limousines.

The 156-page report, obtained by The Associated Press for his release Tuesday, examines the safety issues raised in the July 2015 crash, when a limousine shows a winery in Cutchogue attempted to make a U-turn and was hit by a pick-up truck.

It said that cars are converted into limos are often lacking the safety of components, such as side-impact airbags, reinforced roll-over protection bars, and accessible emergency exits, which are needed in smaller vehicles.

Limousines are built in the factories, are already required to comply with the strict safety regulations, but when the cars are converted into limos, safety devices are sometimes removed, which leads to gaps in the security of the protocols, the grand jury wrote.

The panel, convened by the Suffolk County district attorney, said that some limousine companies have falsified paperwork with the Department of motor Vehicles to avoid stricter inspections required for coaches who are under the law, all the vehicles transporting 11 or more passengers.

The panel referred to in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to assemble a task force limousine safety, and report its findings to the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB said in September 2015, that the research would do limousine crashes on a case-by-case basis. A spokeswoman for Cuomo, and an NTSB spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The limousine involved in 2015 the crash on Long Island was originally built as a Lincoln Town car and was “cut in half and then stretched to 120 cm suitable for 10 residents,” the report said.

Brittany M. Schulman, 23, of Smithtown; Lauren Baruch, 24, of Smithtown; Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park, and Amy R. Grabina, 23, of Commack, were killed in the crash. Four other women and the driver were hospitalized.

The prosecutors have said that the limousine driver’s view was blocked by a Jeep run for him, but that he is “not any precaution or action to make sure that he could safely enter the westbound traffic on the lanes” and made a U-turn without stopping.

A police accident reconstruction specialist found “there was not enough room at the intersection for the limo to be able to make a proper U-turn,” the report said.

The limousine driver, Carlos Pino, and the driver of the pickup truck were arrested after the crash, but criminal charges against the driver were dismissed after a judge found there had been an incorrect grand jury testimony in the case. The plaintiffs have vowed to appeal the ruling. The pick-up truck driver, Steven Romeo, has pleaded not guilty to drunk driving charges.

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