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No charges in party bus accident that killed a Langley woman (with video)

Lack of regulation surrounding the vehicles has left Chelsea James' grieving mother in disbelief
Chelsea James, a 23-year-old Langley woman, died last January after losing her balance and falling into the doorway of a party bus. The door opened, causing James to fall into the street. Vancouver police announced Tuesday that no charges will be laid in the incident.

On Tuesday, Vancouver Police announced that criminal charges will not be recommended in relation to the fatal party bus accident that killed 23-year-old Chelsea Lynn Mist James of Langley.

At a press conference this week, Vancouver Police spokesman Const. Brian Montague said that after an extensive investigation lasting nine months, they have concluded that there is no offense in the criminal code that would enable them to proceed with charges.

"Clearly the family is very upset no one will be held responsible, and I can't say I blame them, but the role of the police is to find criminality and after consultation with legal counsel it was not there," said Montague.

Shortly before 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 9, James was on a party bus celebrating a birthday. The bus was travelling along West Hastings Street with the victim and 27 other passengers on board.

When the bus driver made a left turn to go south on Burrard Street, the young woman lost her balance and stumbled into the stairwell against the pneumatic passenger door, said Vancouver Police. The door opened and James fell out of the bus. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

At the press conference, Montague said the door wan't functioning properly, and “could be opened simply by pushing on it.”

The investigation was taken over by officers with the VPD Collision Investigation Unit and VPD Commercial Vehicle Unit.

"Along with the typical investigative steps taken to determine the cause of this woman’s death, additional commercial vehicle experts, as well as engineers, were brought in to assist with full and comprehensive mechanical inspections of the bus," said Montague.

It was determined that a mechanical malfunction and low operating pressure with the pneumatic door were the main contributing factors in the fatality, he said.

"Upon completion of the investigation, and in consultation with Crown Counsel and other legal experts, the VPD will not be forwarding a recommendation of criminal charges. The owner and the driver of the vehicle have been fined under the Motor Vehicle Act and are still subject to potential civil action."

James’ grieving family said she was on the bus to be safe.

She was attending a birthday party, the family said, and the bus was hired so no one would drink and drive.

“We can’t fathom how she did everything right to be safe and responsible, and yet still lost her life,” the victim’s mother, Shelly James, said during an interview aired by CTV News Vancouver in January.

Her family said James worked as an assistant teacher and was described as passionate about her job.

Shelly James said her daughter “had a beautiful spirit.”

Chelsea's mom spoke out this week after the decision not to press charges was announced.

She said she can't believe there are no regulations around party buses.

This accident is not the first time party bus passenger has fallen out a door.

In June 2010, two women fell from a bus in Langley at the intersection of Hwy. 10 and Fraser Highway.

One was transported to hospital for treatment of a head injury.

The second did not appear to be injured.

Witnesses said the door opened as the bus executed a left turn.

An inspector for the Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement Branch ordered a mechanical inspection.

A year before James died, B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton announced changes to licensing of party buses under a new independent tribunal called the Passenger Transportation Board which approves each vehicle for licensing.

This change came after pressure from parents of two teens who died on party buses, a Maple Ridge girl in 2008 and a teen boy from Surrey in 2013.

Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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