Party bus owners work to install window alarms after girl's death

Party bus owners work to install window alarms after girl's death »Play Video
Along with a loud buzzing sound, a red light turns on just above the driver's head to alert the driver that one of the windows has been opened on the bus.

BEAVERTON, Ore. – It took the death of a 11-year-old girl before anything to happen, but five months later most party bus owners in Portland are making changes to prevent another tragedy.

Angie Hernandez fell out of a party bus window in September and died. Several inspections revealed major safety violations with the bus, including broken emergency exit windows, but the district attorney says the driver was not at fault for the death of Hernandez, and that the driver was sober and driving safely at the time. But he could still face civil charges.

In response to the accident, some area bus owners have installed an alarm system connected to the levers that unlock the emergency exit windows.

When the levers are flipped up, a loud, annoying, can't-miss-it sound can be heard. Additionally, a red light turns on just above the driver.

Johnny Meeke of JMI Limousine in Beaverton has installed the alarms on his fleet of party buses.

"This is new. We just did this since the fatality of Angie," he said Thursday.

If Hernandez' bus, owned by Five Star Limousine, had this technology, it may've saved her life.

The DA's report found the window she fell from was working. It was fine.

But the window opened, Hernandez fell and died because the lever was unlatched and nobody knew it.

Meeke said the alarm is going to make "a big difference. No one's going to fall out of (the windows.) The driver can intervene and he's going to “stop the bus, come back, and slap their hands a little bit" if kids are playing with the levers.

He said limo company owners knew for years emergency exit windows could be dangerous but nobody seriously addressed the concern because there hadn’t been any similar accidents like the one that took Hernandez' life.

KATU News reached about half of the 16 limo companies with Portland permits Thursday. Five of them said they installed or are installing the alarms. Only two said they don't plan to. It is optional now, but the city might start requiring the alarms later this spring.