A 17-year-old foreign student who rode a limo party bus ends up dead. The operator basically says: Not my fault.
In the early morning hours of Oct. 8, 17-year-old Mikkel Christian Anderson was left behind at a restroom stop near a Los Angeles freeway after riding on a “party bus” during the night. Anderson was a participant in what has become known in the industry as a “party bus trip.” It would be his last party. He was struck by a car trying to cross a freeway after being left behind by the chauffeur and a “promoter.” His blood alcohol content was .27, more than three times the legal limit for driving in California.
Party Trips are arranged by promoters from coast-to-coast and take place in big cities such as Hollywood and smaller ones such as Bakersfield. Promoters charter limo-buses and sell admission on the bus by the head. Admission may include alcohol on the way to a club, no waiting in club lines, free admission to the club, and possibly other things. Death isn’t probably one of the expectations but certainly can happen when young people drink excessively to the point they cannot care for themselves.
The promoter of this particular trip, 22-year-old Jeremy Touche, regularly charters limo-buses from an area limousine service and charges per head for people to board the bus at various grocery stores and shopping center parking lots. The fee includes booze on the bus and apparently the promoter doesn’t care about checking IDs. Sal Zamora, owner of Luxury Sports Limousine, does not feel it is the responsibility of his drivers to check IDs, but the responsibility lies with the renter of the vehicle.
Zamora says he doesn’t provide any alcohol on his limo-buses and he is a father to children ages 13, 18 and 20, so he certainly does care about minors drinking. Zamora is a relative newbie in the business with just seven months of service along the way and a few bruises getting to where he is today. Zamora paid a “consultant” $3,000 that incorrectly informed him that operations were legal while his application to the California State PUC was being processed. He ended up having a bus impounded in a joint CHP/PUC sting operation. Zamora stated, “We don’t allow illegal drinking” during a telephone interview. When asked what happened in this situation, he replied, “What am I supposed to do, check everyone’s ID?” Well, maybe.
Ironicially, Touche’s roommate would take a plea bargain on the same day of Anderson’s tragic death. He had been charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, serving alcohol to a minor, serving alcohol without a license, and conducting business without a license. He ended up with three years probation, 240 hours of community service, and a court ordered Alcoholic Beverage Control class.
Tragedies such as this one put an unfavorable spotlight on our industry and raises the question, who is watching over these “party bus trips?” I can tell you, it better be us! We have an obligation to protect every single passenger in our care. We have a responsibility to count heads when re-boarding the bus after a stop. We have an obligation to make sure that state and local laws are obeyed. I hope this will serve as a wake up call. In this case, everyone wanted to make a buck: the promoter, the limo operator, the night club — everyone was so busy chasing a dollar that a 17-year old kid is now dead because no one cared enough to enforce the very laws put in place to prevent something like this from happening.
— Jim Luff, LCT Contributing Editor
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