Teen Killed in Tragic “Party Bus” Accident: Legal Questions Remain
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on September 13th, 2012
On his way to a Sweet 16 party with a large group of friends on a double-decker “party bus,” a 16-year-old boy decided to open a rooftop hatch door to stick his head into a cool breeze. Instead, tragically, the boy met a horrific death when he stuck his head through the roof door and was struck by a concrete overpass.
The terrible accident occurred Aug. 31 as the bus headed from New York City to New Jersey for the party, according to a story in the N.Y. Daily News.
The boy, Daniel Fernandez, died at Hackensack University Medical Center from severe head trauma shortly after the 6:45 p.m. incident, according to the paper. Sixty-four other teen-agers were on the bus.
A security guard on the bus had apparently “warned the exuberant teens to leave the rooftop hatch alone,” according to the story.
The mishap should serve as a warning against risking injury by placing bodily parts outside of moving vehicles, according to a recent story by the Associated Press (AP).
“It’s a familiar scene on city streets and in movies: dressed-up teenagers packed into a stretch limo, celebrating something important by jubilantly sticking their heads through the roof,” the story said. Rented party buses that are two-stories high can allow even more participants – and even more potential danger, the AP story said.
The problem can come when people open rooftop hatches, which are meant as emergency exits, and place parts of their bodies outside the vehicle, the story said.
This incident is very sad. Certainly, the teens aboard the bus were having fun and enjoying the experience of the chauffeured bus ride, probably thinking nothing at all of the inherent risks of such horseplay while riding in the vehicle.
Now the family of the boy is suffering from his terrible loss in a senseless accident, while the other teens had to be witnesses to such a horrific event.
The legal implications related to the incident are another issue.
Questions have been raised in some news accounts and on blogs about whether the teens on the bus were illegally consuming alcoholic beverages. Bus company officials had maintained in news reports that there was no alcohol on the bus and that the teens had been searched for such contraband before they boarded the vehicle.
Another AP story reported that the company that operated the double-decker party bus involved in the accident didn’t have the proper permit for the vehicle’s height. “New Jersey officials say Designer Limousines of Port Washington, N.Y., did not apply for a state permit required for vehicles over 13 feet, 6 inches high,” the story reported. “The bus was 13 feet, 9 inches high, a Port Authority spokesman said.”
If alcohol was on the bus and was being consumed by the teen passengers, there could certainly be legal implications in any claims made by the family of the victim or by the families of other passengers who might have suffered mental or emotional anguish due to the tragedy.
If the vehicle’s permits or operation violated any laws, that could also be taken into account in any legal claims.
Certainly the best that could come out of this tragic incident is to educate others about the dangers of oversized vehicles and the risks of placing body parts outside of such moving vehicles.
We here at MyPhillyLawyer hope that no family should ever have to endure such a tragedy again. If you or someone you love is ever seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident, be sure to consult an experienced, compassionate and qualified attorney to best protect your legal rights.