Limo operator arrested, charged after crash killed 20

This photograph provided courtesy of Albany Times Union shows distraught family members taking in the scene of a deadly limousine accident in Schoharie, New York that left 20 people dead (AFP Photo/Lori Van Buren) (Albany Times Union/AFP/File)

New York (AFP) - The operator of a New York limousine company has been charged with criminally negligent homicide after the deadliest accident in the United States for nearly a decade, police confirmed Thursday.

Seventeen passengers, the driver and two pedestrians were killed when an SUV-style stretch vehicle careened out of control on Saturday in Schoharie, a town about three hours' drive north of Manhattan.

Nauman Hussain, 28, was arrested and arraigned on Wednesday evening on one count of criminally negligent homicide with 20 names, a New York state police spokeswoman confirmed to AFP.

He was released on bail. Police said the criminal investigation is ongoing. Hussain's father, who is in Pakistan, owns the Prestige Limousine company and is also thought to be under investigation.

Hussain, the operator, was issued written violations by state police and the department of transportation that the driver he hired -- and who was killed -- should not have been operating the type of vehicle.

The vehicle was also placed out of service by the same department in September and should not have been on the road, police said.

"The sole responsibility for that motor vehicle being on the road on Saturday rests with Nauman Hussain," George Beach, superintendent of state police, told a news conference on Wednesday.

The passengers -- including four sisters -- were reportedly celebrating a birthday party.

Police said the 2001 Ford Excursion failed to stop at an intersection and careened out of control, crashing into a parked car.

It was the deadliest transport accident in the United States since a Colgan Air Flight from Newark, New Jersey to Buffalo, New York crashed in February 2009, killing 49.

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