B.C. considers putting the brakes on party buses
One month after a B.C. teen went into medical distress on a party bus and died, Transportation Minister Mary Polak said it may be time to put the brakes on the entire industry.
Ernest Azoadam collapsed on a party bus in Surrey on Feb. 15 and died not long after in hospital. Investigators said they found evidence of alcohol on the vehicle.
Critics claim teenagers frequently use the buses for unsupervised, underage drinking, particularly during graduation season in the spring. But it’s illegal even for adults to drink in a moving vehicle, and Polak said she’s consulting with municipal police chiefs to determine whether party buses belong in B.C. at all.
“I have to ask myself as a minister, is there even any place for party buses to be operating?” Polak said. “I’m concerned we have a class of operators not in compliance at least with the spirit of license requirements.”
The buses currently don’t require adult supervision for groups of teenagers. CTV News had a 17-year-old volunteer contact nine companies, and only four said they require chaperones.
All made it clear that alcohol use was not permitted, however.
Some in the industry, including Doreen Ram of Silver Star Limousines, said they would welcome tougher regulations.
“All the companies need to band together to come up with policy we can all abide by to ensure the safety of our passengers,” Ram said.
“I know with us, if we find any alcohol on board their services are terminated immediately.”
Julie Raymond’s 16-year-old daughter Shannon died in January 2008 after taking ecstasy on a party bus. She said two deaths are “more than enough” to force authorities to strengthen industry restrictions, and especially enforcement.
Raymond said companies could start by requiring the adult who rents the bus to stay onboard for the night.
“You can’t leave a 19-year-old [driver] responsible for 25, 26 kids. Something’s going to happen. In Shannon’s case, she died,” Raymond said. “She died a long, painful, agonizing death. Her death was not quick. And it started because of the activities on the party bus.”
Minister Polak said she will meet with industry representatives next week to discuss the next step.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Mi-Jung Lee