Party bus in deadly incident had safety violations, investigators say

Party bus in deadly incident had safety violations, investigators say
Angie Hernandez

The windows on the party bus that a 11-year-old girl fell out of and died earlier this year had serious safety violations, according to the Portland police officer in charge of the investigation. 

The officer briefed KATU News on his preliminary findings based on dozens of witness interviews and two inspections of the bus. The findings have not yet been made public.

Investigators from the Portland Police Bureau and the U.S. Department of Transportation conducted separate detailed inspections of the bus after Angie Hernandez died when she leaned against an emergency exit window and it opened.

In light of these and other findings, the Multnomah County District Attorney's office may convene a grand jury to consider possible felony charges against the driver, Martin Brauer, and the limousine company that operated the bus, Five Star Limousine, according to Deputy District Attorney Nicole Jergovic.

Both the federal and city inspections of the bus revealed some of the emergency exit windows were not working properly, according to Erik Koppang, Portland Police Bureau's lead investigator on the Major Crash Team.

Koppang told KATU News that investigators determined some handles designed to open emergency exit windows were broken. Other emergency exit windows were stuck shut or were dangerously loose, allowing them to swing open with pressure on the glass even without lifting the handles.

When working properly, emergency exit windows should only be able to swing open after raising two metal handles. The window swings out very widely and easily, which would let riders get out quickly in an emergency. 

Due to the ongoing criminal proceedings, police would not comment specifically on whether they found any violations or problems with the actual window that Hernandez fell from. Police said the bus had several other emergency exit windows in addition to the window involved in the incident. They inspected all of them.

Police investigators also just recently wrapped up thorough interviews with 27 kids who were riding on the party bus at the time of Hernandez's death. There were a total of 31 kids on the bus, in addition to Hernandez, on their way to a large birthday party.

There were no adults on the bus.

According to Koppang, none of the kids admitted to adjusting the emergency exit handles or interfering with any of the emergency exit windows. 

Koppang told KATU News that the witness accounts did not reveal any other clues about why Hernandez fell out of the window.

"This is one of the most unique incidents we've ever investigated," said Koppang.  "We may never know what happened."

According to Koppang's interviews with passengers, the bus driver, Martin Brauer, did not brief riders on safety instructions before leaving.