The company operating a party bus was doing so illegally and had been for years when an Orange County teenager fell out a window and onto a freeway last weekend, state regulators said.
The company, Downey's Leon Party Bus, was slapped with a cease-and-desist letter in August 2012 for operating buses while unlicensed, but apparently remained open for business, according to the California Public Utilities Commission.
The firm later applied for a Charter Class B certificate from the agency, but was denied in February 2013 for unknown reasons, according to CPUC records. Spokesman Christopher Chow declined to comment, citing the agency’s ongoing investigation.
The California Highway Patrol is also investigating the incident, which occurred about 7:20 p.m. Saturday, as dozens of students were enroute to their prom.
Charlotte Boyse, a senior at Corona del Mar High School, stood up on an inward-facing bench seat and leaned against the window, according to CHP Officer Florentino Olivera.
Somehow the window popped open, and Boyse tumbled out and onto the 73 Freeway near Santa Ana. She landed bottom-first and rolled several times, Boyse's parents said, and her phone and high-heeled shoes were scattered across the highway.
Somehow, Charlotte was able to avoid oncoming traffic and crawl to the median, where a witness called 911. Charlotte was treated for minor injuries and released from the hospital Sunday evening.
Neither the bus driver, identified as 41-year-old Rosalba Diaz, or the students were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Olivera said.
An inspection of the vehicle found that the window’s hinges were working properly, but may not have been latched when Boyse leaned back. Olivera said investigators are communicating with Leon Party Bus through an attorney.
Investigators are exploring whether Leon Party Bus received a sub-contract from another Southern California party bus firm with proper licensing, authorities said.
Eugene Cosma, who owns Party Bus Limo Rentals in Anaheim, said parents of the students initially contacted him for the rental, and he referred them to Leon, which he has worked with on occasion.
Cosma said he had no idea the company did not have the proper licensing and insurance, and that other companies had vouched for him.
“We would never give referrals that could put in jeopardy other clients’ lives,” Cosma told The Times.
David Leon, who owns Leon Party Bus, could not be reached for comment.
Boyse’s parents say it’s “a miracle” that she was able to survive the fall, and credit friends nearby who tried to grab her and prevented her from falling head-first into the pavement.
“It’s a shock to me as it is to any other parent…. We didn’t’ know that many of these companies are middle men that don’t even own these buses or drivers,” said Conrad Boyse, adding that he’d spoken to several parents who have rented similar services. “They thought they were being diligent, but they didn’t realize the lengths they needed to go through.”