Who is responsible for the death of the 11 year old girl who fell out of the window of a bus full of teenage partygoers last Saturday? Is it the driver of the bus who was not licensed to drive more than16 people on the bus? Is it the owner of the company who employed the driver, failed to provide supervision on the bus, and may have been responsible for the unsecured emergency window? Is it the manufacturer of the window or the bus itself? How about the adults who organized the party or hired the bus company?
It is too early to tell in this case who bears the blame for sure. The police are still investigating and only some of the facts about the case have come to light. However, the facts that have been released do not look good for Five Star Limousine, the company that operated the party bus in question. According to Lt. Robert King, a Portland Police spokesperson, there was no adult supervision in the bus other than the driver. King also noted that there was a “nightclub environment” inside the bus with disco lights flashing, a flat screen t.v., loud music and at least 20 kids on board.
While Five Star Limousine recently received a permit to operate in Portland and four of its vehicles passed mandatory safety inspections, the party bus involved in this incident was not one of them. Additionally, the 61 year-old driver of the party bus did not have the commercial driver’s license required to carry more than 16 passengers or the required permit from the City to operate a party bus.
Not surprisingly, this is not the first death involving a party bus recently. Another birthday celebration aboard a party bus ended in tragedy last month. Daniel Fernandez, 16, was on a double-decker party bus carrying 65 teens to a birthday party in New Jersey when he stuck his head out of the emergency hatch, struck his head on an overpass and died. In July, a 25-year-old California woman died after she fell out of a party bus on her way home from a concert. A second woman fell out of the bus and sustained moderate injuries. In 2010, a 19-year-old died in a car crash after drinking aboard a party bus.
State and local governments it seems are playing catch-up with regulating this growing industry. Portland already requires for-hire companies like taxi, town car, and limo operators to be licensed.
Part of the licensing process requires companies to carry out yearly safety checks on vehicles, carry at least $1 million in liability insurance and perform background checks on drivers. Portland City Council passed an ordinance just this summer requiring companies to also carry an official sticker on the back making it easier for patrons to tell which companies are currently licensed. The city of Portland suspended the company’s permits for its four licensed vehicles following the Saturday incident. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new last week requiring chaperones and ID checks on all party buses carrying underage passengers.
Records show the party bus owner, Rick Lycksell, filed for personal bankruptcy five months ago, owing more than 50 creditors about $1.2 million. First Investments LLC, which does business as Five Star Limousine, also filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Lycksell is the sole partner in First Investments, according to a 2011 document he filed in federal bankruptcy court. Hopefully he was current on his insurance premiums.