We have previously written about other party bus accidents including one accident that occurred in California. In that accident, a passenger of the bus tumbled out of the bus doors when the driver made an unexpected turn. An investigation later found that there were faulty bus doors and this defective condition allowed the man to tumble out of the bus and onto the highway where he was hit by oncoming vehicles and sustained fatal injuries. The investigation into the accident later revealed that the bus should not have been on the road and the bus company was charged with numerous safety violations.
Unfortunately, conduct of this type is not isolated and likely occurs in all 50 states. Today we will look at a Kansas party bus accident that occurred under shockingly similar circumstances. The occurrences of preventable accidents like these illustrate the need for potential patrons of party buses to research the bus company and its safety record before going out on a night on the town. Unfortunately defective or improperly maintained equipment is often a recipe for life-altering injuries or deaths.
A Bachelorette Bus Party Ends in Tragedy with a Passenger Death
It was supposed to be a bachelorette party on wheels. Approximately 16 friends had gathered in the Kansas City area for a barbeque at the home of the bride-to-be. The group then met at another location to be picked up by a bus company known as “The Midnight Express” to be transported to another location to continue the festivities. However, before heading to their ultimate destination, the group stopped at a local convenience store to purchase ice. The ice was brought onto the bus through front side passenger door and the bus continued on to its route to its destination.
The bus entered onto the northbound I-35 highway and continued on its journey. On the I-35 two woman were standing near the front of the bus with their backs facing the passenger double-doors. Then, only about ten minutes into the trip, the bus hit a bump in the road as it navigated a curve in the highway. The bump caused the front passenger doors to pop open at the exact moment that it caused 26-year-old Jamie Frecks to lose her balance.
Frecks tumbled through the open doors onto the highway. According to police reports, at least three vehicles hit Frecks inflicting fatal injuries. Police stated that only one driver actually stopped although a second driver did later come forward and speak to investigators.
Safety and Regulatory Problems with Party Buses
Unfortunately, the regulatory and safety violations reported in this case were numerous and to such a degree that the bus should have never been on the highway – never mind carrying passengers. To start, Kansas law required the passenger-carrying bus to have registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation and to display a U.S. DOT number. The bus company never registered itself for passenger-carrying activities or the vehicle and therefore should have never been engaged in passenger transportation. Furthermore, since the vehicle was never registered, a vehicle inspection was never triggered and did not occur.
Had the vehicle inspection occurred, inspectors would have likely noticed that the vehicle’s “door ajar” warning system was non-functional. It is at least possible that this system would have provided a warning that the doors were not properly secured and prevented the accident from occurring. However, it is not entirely clear whether the doors did not close properly or whether the latch responsible for securing the doors was defective. Subsequent investigations later revealed that the bus company had removed a wheelchair lift that could have served as a protective barrier. Additionally, the company also had insufficient insurance and was utilizing an insurance policy intended for recreational vehicles. Companies carrying up to 15 passengers are required to have a minimum of a $1.5 million insurance policy. Companies carrying 15 or more passengers must have a minimum of $5 million in coverage.
Injured in a Party Bus Accident?
Individuals should always perform their due diligence before contracting with a party bus company. One avenue of inquiry should be requesting the company’s DOT number and entering it into the U.S. DOT’s SAFER system. Using the DOT number is more likely to return meaningful results because many companies have similar names.
If you’ve been seriously injured in a crash involving a party bus, limo, or another passenger-carrying commercial vehicle, the party bus accident attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm may be able to fight for you. For decades, an aggressive and strategic personal injury lawyer of The Reiff Law Firm has fought for compensation for injured individuals. To schedule a free and confidential consultation call (215) 246-9000 today.