The operator of the company that owned the limousine involved in a crash that killed 20 people in upstate New York has been charged with criminally negligent homicide over the tragedy.
Police are reportedly continuing their investigations into the cause of the crash and are yet to decide whether anyone else will face charges.
Nauman Hussain, 28, the operator of Prestige Limousine, was arrested following a traffic stop, police said in a statement on Thursday morning (AEST).
Mr Hussain’s lawyer, Lee Kindlon, said his client wasn’t guilty and that police were rushing to judgment.
The vehicle, carrying 17 people on their way to a birthday party on Saturday, ran a stop sign at a highway intersection in Schoharie, about 40 miles (65km) west of Albany, police and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said.
All the passengers, two pedestrians and the driver died in the incident.
Prestige Limousine has been criticised for operating vehicles rife with violations and for employing a driver lacking a commercial license.
Mr Hussain hired a driver who shouldn’t have been behind the wheel of such a car, and the vehicle shouldn’t have been driven after state inspectors deemed it “unserviceable” last month, State Police Superintendent George Beach told a news conference.
“The sole responsibility for that motor vehicle being on the road on Saturday rests with Nauman Hussain,” Mr Beach said.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday said that the limousine driver didn’t have the required commercial license, and that Prestige Limousine “had no business putting a failed vehicle on the road”.
Under New York law, criminally negligent homicide is punishable by up to four years in prison.
Mr Kindlon said his client handled only marketing duties and phone calls, while his father ran the company.
A newlywed couple, four sisters and two brothers were among the victims in the deadliest US transport accident in almost a decade.
Witnesses reported bodies on the ground and broken tree limbs around the accident site.
The wife of the limousine driver said her late husband expressed concerns about the company’s vehicles.
Kim Lisinicchia told CBS television in an interview broadcast Wednesday that her husband, Scott, stated several times that he needed a different vehicle, but then trusted the company’s assurances that its “cars were alright.”