The mother of a young Langley woman who died after falling out of a party bus hopes a coroner’s report will help prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Chelsea Lynn Mist James died falling out of a limousine party bus more than four years ago now, and on Tuesday the bus’s door was reported faulty by the BC Coroners Service.
“A huge piece of us is gone, and so unnecessarily,” said Shelly James, Chelsea’s mother. The release of the report has brought up a lot of emotions for the family, she said.
A report released Tuesday by coroner Cynthia Hogan blasted the company and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement unit in B.C. for what she described as “a long history of door malfunctions,” that led up to the 23-year-old Langley woman’s accidental death.
Chelsea was one of 28 passengers in the 2008 bus that travelled from Surrey to Vancouver on Jan. 9, 2016. She and friends were standing near the exit door as it neared its destination in downtown Vancouver. As the bus took a corner from West Hastings Street to Burrard Street, James fell down the stairs, hit the door, and fell out onto the road.
She was run over by the rear wheel of the bus. She died instantaneously, Hogan said.
Her death prompted an in-depth investigation that resulted in a series of recommendations being issued by the BC Coroners Service today.
The company that operated the bus had been issued multiple repair orders dating back to March 2013.
A problem, specific to the passenger door in question, was reportedly a concern, and while there was no proof of repairs provided, Hogan said the governing CVSE agency gave the limo bus a passing grade multiple times in the subsequent years.
Post-crash inspections by CVSE and the Vancouver Police Department concluded that the mechanical condition of the bus prior to the incident “did not meet the standards” or the motor vehicle act and its regulations. In particular, the door would get stuck in the closed position intermittently, it would not fully close, and the door could be opened while moving.
The report noted that the night of the incident, two late arrivals ran to catch the bus as it was leaving Surrey. They managed to yank the door open from the outside while the bus was still in motion, before the driver had fully stopped to let them on board.
The death was an injustice, and was entirely preventable, Shelly said.
She wants to see substantive rules changes, including follow ups by CVSE to make sure that when repair orders are issued, the repairs are actually completed.
“Action speaks louder than words,” she said.
The limo in question was subsequently sold after the accident, and the new owner reportedly replaced the entire door system.
Shelly was surprised that the owner of the party bus was able to sell it without replacing the door.
“There have been no violations noted on the limousine’s door since having the door replaced,” Hogan noted.
While the coroner classified James’ death as accidental, she issued a series of recommendations to the minister of transportation and infrastructure and the British Columbia Limousine Association. Among the recommendation, a call for consistent inspections, and moreover that action be taken against the carriers, if CVSE orders for repairs are not met.
Shelly said she’s spoken many times with Claire Trevena, B.C.’s current minister of transportation, raising concerns over the years.
She plans to keep pushing for changes to the laws to hold companies accountable and to prevent future tragedies.
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