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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Owner of limousine involved in US crash 'may live in Dubai'

The accident in New York State on Saturday killed 20 people, including four sisters

Emergency personnel respond to the scene of a deadly crash involving a limousine in Schoharie, New York State.
Emergency personnel respond to the scene of a deadly crash involving a limousine in Schoharie, New York State.

The owner of a limousine involved in a crash that killed 20 people in the United States is understood to live in Dubai, according to reports.

Shahed Hussain, 62, who runs rental firm Prestige Limousines, is thought to split his time between the Emirates, the US and his native Pakistan.

Seventeen passengers — four of whom were sisters — were killed in the accident in New York State on Saturday.

The driver of the limousine and two pedestrians also died after the vehicle ran through a stop sign and slammed into a parked car.

On Monday, a report by The New York Times said one of the passengers in the limo texted a friend about the vehicle shortly before the accident.

“The motor is making everyone deaf,” Erin McGowan said. The victim’s aunt also told CNN that the limousine had been dispatched to the group to replace an earlier vehicle that had broken down.

“We’re in possession of the airbag control module — what would be considered the vehicle’s black box,” State Police Maj Robert Patnaude said at a press conference on Monday.

“That is being analysed for post-crash data.” He said both Prestige Limousines and the specific vehicle in question had been under scrutiny in the past, and that officers had now “located the owner of the company”.

The tragedy — the deadliest US transport crash in nearly a decade — happened while the victims were en route to celebrate a 30th birthday party.

Four sisters from one family and two brothers from another died following the incident in the town of Schoharie, near Albany.

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Mr Hussain’s company said on Monday that it was investigating the cause of the crash and had met with state and federal authorities.

US officials have also launched a criminal investigation into the accident and the firm’s three remaining limousines have been seized by police.

Officers said the driver of the limousine, identified on social media as Scott Lisinicchia, was not licensed to drive a vehicle with more than 15 passengers. The limousine is also understood to have failed a road safety inspection in September.

According to US media reports, Mr Hussain left Pakistan in the 1990s to seek asylum in the US after being accused of murder.

He later became a paid government informant during investigations into domestic terror threats following the September 11 attacks in 2001.

In 2009, US authorities credited him with rooting out radical Muslims in an elaborate sting at a mosque in Newburgh, a city north of New York.

At trial, the jury heard testimony that Mr Hussain was posing as a wealthy representative of a Pakistani terrorist organisation. His co-operation resulted in the conviction of four men in a thwarted plot to attack synagogues and shoot down military planes.

As well as his limousine firm, Mr Hussain is also believed to own a motel in Gansevoort in New York State called The Crest Inn Suites and Cottages. Earlier this week, the manager of the motel told local reporters that Mr Hussain currently lived in Dubai.