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Party bus operating illegally in fatal KCK case

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) -- A party bus was operating illegally when a bachelorette party attendee tumbled out onto Interstate 35 in Kansas City, Kan., and was killed earlier this month, a newspaper reported.

Jamie Frecks, a 26-year-old new mother who was engaged to be married, was struck by several vehicles on May 4.

The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/14FtmF2 ) reported that the 14-year-old Midnight Express party bus lacked a required U.S. Department of Transportation number, which requires an operator to carry proper insurance and meet safety requirements.

The Star reported that if the van would have been registered, DOT regulations would have triggered vehicle inspections. Such inspections may have caught some of the problems with the van, including a malfunctioning "door ajar" warning system.

The newspaper also found that the van's wheelchair-loading equipment had been removed from just inside the doors out of which Freck fell. In the unused position, the lift provided a sturdy metal barrier that could have prevented someone from falling into or out of the doors.

"It's appalling this vehicle was permitted to operate for two years," said Jim Hall, a transportation safety consultant and former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. "If there had been any inspection of this vehicle, it certainly should never have passed."

Midnight Express attorney Jim Cramer said in a written statement that his clients have been cooperating with investigators but declined comment on the newspaper's findings or anything related to the accident, other than to express the company's "sincere sympathy" to those involved.

Susan Dill, an attorney for the passengers, said that after several of the women attended a barbecue at the Merriam home of the bride-to-be, the entire group met the bus at another location to head to the Westport entertainment district.

Although beer was served at the barbecue, no one on the bus was drunk, Dill said. They had been aboard for only about 10 minutes when the bus hit a bump as it rounded a curve.

Frecks, who had been standing with her back to the rear double doors, fell out backward when the doors popped open.

"This, unfortunately, sounds like an accident waiting to happen," Hall said.