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Erratic passenger behavior, which a host aboard the bus tried to stop, nevertheless leaves a black mark on the industry.
Last Friday, 16-year-old Daniel Fernandez was killed when he decided to open an emergency roof hatch on a double-decker motorcoach party bus and had his head whacked on an overpass as the bus whizzed underneath it.
While it is tragic that this fatality happened in the first place, there is no one to blame but Fernandez. Yet, when I first became aware of the accident early Saturday morning, I knew the drill. I knew that there would be blame and speculation about the limousine operator and driver that provided the party bus. There was even a comment that investigators were “attempting to determine what the host was doing at the time of the incident.”
My blood began to boil for the fellow operator, the driver and the host. As you know, I am no stranger to party bus accidents, sharing all the details of two party bus accidents in less than a year in LCT Magazine. In fact, my second crash will be hitting your mailboxes this week. We need not think back too far to the death of a passenger in California who was killed when she tumbled out of a moving limo bus after a drunken scuffle with another female passenger. Immediately, the investigation focused on the driver and her actions. Why do people not think for a moment that the passengers place themselves in dangerous situations mostly through the overconsumption of alcoholic beverages? That might not be the case with young Fernandez.
Designer Limousines of Long Island, N.Y. was operating the bus with a driver and a host. The host has been called a chaperone and a security guard by various media entities. The fact that a host was on a bus with 65 teenagers does not make him the babysitter. He may have been on the bus as a matter of policy or courtesy but he is not the babysitter and there would be no way he could adequately supervise that many kids on two different levels of the bus. But I guarantee that he will be the fall guy. He will more than likely be sued for failing to provide a safe environment simply because the parents would like to lay blame for their son’s stupidity. I mean no disrespect to the deceased, but seriously… why would anyone in their right mind do something so stupid, especially after having been repeatedly warned not to!?
By Monday, Designer Limousines through its spokesman Todd Shapiro was already working to position the company as “not guilty.” He stated: “The bus is federally mandated to have emergency hatches to provide an exit in case of emergency,” and “I do not believe there is any requirement for chaperones on the bus.”
It is unfortunate that incidents such as these happen and the blame put on us operators first. Then, during the course of the investigation, it is often determined that the fatalities resulted irresponsible passenger behavior. It is not our job to babysit our guests. Passengers ride on buses, get drunk and walk out into traffic and get killed. They fight with each other and open doors using emergency exit controls. And now, they climb out of an emergency exit when no emergency exists and end up dead, and somehow we are always the first to be blamed.
I can tell you right now that in the direction that party buses are going, legislation will be forced down our throats to become highly paid babysitting services for teenagers and adults that should not normally need supervision. We plan to add a similar size party bus to our fleet in the month of September capable of transporting 70 passengers. It irks me that we will have that we are put in the role of babysitters for so many people at once, and as a result, our bus will probably operate with a driver and TWO hosts for the safety of our passengers — a costly way of doing something that clients should be able to do for themselves.
— Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor
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