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Port Washington Bus Company Addresses Role in Tragedy

Company had monitor on bus; no parents present.

A Port Washington bus company is coming under increasing fire in the wake of the tragic death of a 16-year-old passenger who died when he stuck his head out of a rooftop emergency escape hatch on a double-decker bus on Aug. 31.

The boy, Daniel Fernandez, died shortly after being struck by an overpass as the bus, operated by Port Washington-based Designer Limousines, traveled in New Jersey.

The amount of supervision on the bus has come under question.

Media accounts revealed that there was one guard on the bus who went downstairs to talk the driver. That’s when the accident occurred.

As Newsday reports, no regulation exists regarding staffing levels on this kind of bus.

Designer Limousines spokesman Kyle Kotary told Newsday that it is "voluntary company policy to have at least one attendant on board," noting that “there was no parental supervision."

But transportation safety attorney Noah Kushlefsky told Eyewitness News, "The bus was understaffed, almost obviously and that's probably the primary reason why the incident occurred is because the guy left where he was supposed to be. Maybe he was needed down below, but that points to the reason why [supervision would be warranted] one on each floor."

In addition, Port Authority police say the bus company, Designer Limousines, lacked proper permits to operate a bus that is higher than 13 feet, 6 inches.

But Kotary told PIX-11 “the bus has a New York State special-use permit and receives related special-use safety inspections every six months. In addition, the bus has a US DOT authorization number as a result of two federal DOT reviews.”

Kotary told Newsday that the bus has a hydraulic system enabling it to be raised or lowered several inches.

"What we're trying to find out . . . is whether at the time of the accident the hydraulic system was engaged," Kotary told Newsday.

Meanwhile, the company posted this message on its website:

"We at Designer Limousine extend our heartfelt sympathy to the family, friends and classmates of the young man who tragically died Friday night. Our thoughts and prayers are first and foremost with them. 

"We remain focused on helping everyone involved, including our dedicated employees, through this very difficult time."

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jonathan winant September 10, 2012 at 04:26 PM
You have to have a screw lose to stand up and stick your head out of a an "EMERGENCY" escape hatch. Does the term "Emergency" mean anything at all. People do some of the very very dumbest things and sometimes pay dearly for doing them!
Pazzo September 10, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Maybe the bus company should hire a nanny for every passenger on the bus.
Archie Bunker September 10, 2012 at 05:42 PM
We have a new candidate for the 2012 Darwin Awards. The Darwin Awards: Honoring (posthumously, of course) those who have removed themselves from the gene pool in the most spectacular or humiliating manner.
Leslie September 10, 2012 at 07:58 PM
The three previous posts should be removed for complete lack of compassion or humanity. This teen did a very stupid thing and lost his life. What his parents must be going through. What the other teens on that bus must be dealing with. How tragic that you three individuals feel that a tragedy like this warrants cruel comments. Sad.
Pazzo September 10, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Somebody had to chastise the sardonic commenters. Brava!
sadeto September 10, 2012 at 09:09 PM
These comments are pretty insensitive to the fact that a 16 year old child used poor judgment and paid with his life.
Dawn Andrew September 10, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Even good kids do stupid things. I know I did as did all of my friends. Sadly, some of them never survived their teenage years. My heart goes out to his family. I think parents can use this as an another teachable moment. Cars and all transportation are no joke. Truly a tragedy.
George Mulligan September 10, 2012 at 10:36 PM
The kid did a stupid thing and paid with his life. That is truly sad. But now the bus company and their employee are being put under the microscope. The only ones who will come out ahead in this case are the lawyers. The accident should not have happened. But is was an accident and the main culprit is the high school kid who died.
jonathan winant September 10, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Leslie: My heart goes out to the parents who lost a child, no one can explain that pain. Reality is that the poor kid did a very stupid thing I can not and will never understand what was going through his mind. Years ago 60 minutes Ed Bradley went to Rio D'jonario where he went to the slums. The poorest area of the country right next to the richest area. Poor kids ride the top of the trains to go into the tourist areas and pick pocket to make enough money to do drugs. Huffing is a big thing down there. You take something like like what we used to call airoplane glue (to make models) and fill a jar and inhale the vapors. Even Ed Bradley had his wallet snatched by the best pick pockets in the area. People do some of the most stupid things and unfortunate as it is the parents suffer the most. Maybe parents have to start teaching better values to their kids. please see my story in today's Patch it is based on some very real and shocking things I have watched parents with car loads of children doing in our area. Tell your child not to do what you do because mommy and daddy did something stupid!
Leslie September 10, 2012 at 11:56 PM
I agree wholeheartedly with Dawn. Even smart kids do stupid things. It is one of the most terrifying aspects of being a parent of teenagers. We teach them the very best we can. We have to believe that they will make good choices but nothing, nothing in the world will ever ease that boy's parents pain. They will always wonder where they went wrong and none of us can pass judgement and say they did go wrong. We just don't know why he made the horrible decision that ended his life. It is the fear of every parent I imagine. One wrong decision and that could end your child's life. I work very hard to teach my guys to make good decisions. But teenagers are bound to make wrong choices and we have to hope that they are not grave ones. I also feel for every child on that bus that watched their friend be killed. They will never be the same. Those are the reasons I was upset at the seemingly unkind comments.
Rick Armstrong September 11, 2012 at 04:38 AM
You have every reason to be upset - there but for fortune go any of us, or any of our kids. Amazing how even people "employed" by this site can be so perfect.
jonathan winant September 11, 2012 at 10:11 AM
Leslie: The bottom line is two issues. First is that this individual did something plaqinly stupid, dangerous, thoughtless. It was also an act which could have had far worse consequences and might have caused injury to others on the bus. Had the driver been made aware of the act in progress and he made slammed on the brakes who knows what would have happened. The second issue is what rules and regulations were not followed in regards to having proper supervision on board. How would you havefelt if the story was about a youngster who climbed onto the hood of a car while it was pulling away from the curb and then was injured? People, children do stupid things and then when they get hurt or killed we first acknowledge that it was in fact a stupid thing to do.
jonathan winant September 11, 2012 at 10:14 AM
Thank you George for telling it like it is! For everyone else George said it and it is the way it is.
jonathan winant September 11, 2012 at 10:18 AM
Leslie: I strongly have to dissagree with you especially after looking around Port Washington. No not all parents do their best to teach children right from wrong. Example is the way some (not all) parents drive with children in the car. See my story on the Patch and comment. Some parents know nothing about their children and what they do and don't do thats why they are in disbelief wehen they find out their precious child did something which got yhem in great trouble. "Oh no it couldn't have been my little ...."
Sandy September 11, 2012 at 11:40 AM
I totally agree with Leslie on this. Yes, teens do really dumb things sometimes. It's an amazing thing that almost all of them survive this part of their lives. This is why it's so important to have enough supervision. They need to be saved from themselves. Their brains are re-wiring themselves and someone has to be there to ensure their safety.
Pazzo September 11, 2012 at 11:40 AM
Isn't the topic of this article the bus company's liability? Obviously, losing a child because of one false move is a tragedy. The implication seems to be that it was somebody else's fault.
Sandy September 11, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Agreed. And don't all of our children (and many adults) have lapses in judgement every now and then?
Sandy September 11, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Wrong! The main point here is that the adults involved--driver, bus company, and the parents of those kids should have made sure that there were enough adults with the kids on the bus. If the bus was a double-decker, then AT LEAST one adult (other than the driver) should have been on each level. Period! There is a reason why we don't allow kids to drive by themselves at 16, or to vote at 16. And we have a special court system for kids because they are not considered to be adults with all the coping and judgement that comes with experience and they lack the consistent judgement that adults are supposed to have. They feel invincible.
Sandy September 11, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Jonathan, you are making an assumption that this child's parents were remiss in the way they taught their son. You are placing blame on a child for being "stupid" and then berating some parents for their actions. Yes, there are some very detached and uninvolved parents here and in every town. And you know what? Sometimes, their kids grow up knowing the difference between good and bad, right and wrong--and sometimes they don't. But you are losing sight of the fact that this is about a child who used poor judgement--as my own children did occasionally, even though I was and still am a very involved and hands-on parent. This could even have happened, God forbid, to one of your children. You never know.
jonathan winant September 11, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Leslie: The story was about the role which the company might have played and about someone sticking his head out of an emergency hatch.
NH Runner September 11, 2012 at 12:45 PM
It is the fault of the adult who rented the bus. that person is responsible for the conduct of the guests on the bus. who rented the bus???
Derp September 11, 2012 at 01:35 PM
It's no one's fault.
jonathan winant September 11, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Sandy the article is basically about the role which the bus company played and whether or not they followed the laws and regulations. Other posters made comments about what the family is going through and the fact that other posters are not showing any sympathy. My comment was responding to that. Yes I agree parents can not control a childs actions if they are not with them at the time. Still how parents teach, influence, a guide their children have some bearring on how the child acts. Yes parents can not have total control over the actions of other family members. As a child I did stupid things some of which might have ended up with devasting consequences. In some of those cases I was disciplined and punished.
jonathan winant September 11, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Derp: you are partial correct the fact the youngster stuck his head out of the Emergency Hatch is only his fault. As the article infured there might have been some regulations or laws which were not followed. One of which is how much supervision was needed on the double tier bus. One thing we should all be curious about is why on earth didn't anyone on the same level of the buys try to stop this individual from dong something so very stupid?
NH Runner September 11, 2012 at 03:22 PM
What parent puts their child on a bus for an unsupervised trip? who rents a bus for use by unsupervised children? tragic yes. but the blame rests solely at the feet of the people who arranged the trip and did not provide supervision.
John Conners September 13, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Most all people do stupid things have a lapse of judgment or too much to drink, or too much to smoke people makes mistakes. Look at President Clinton and Monica Lewisnky now thats an example of a mistake by a very smart person. Regretfully some of the mistakes people make result in tragedy. My heartful prayers go to the parents of this young guy.
John Conners September 13, 2012 at 03:11 PM
I strongly suspect that President Clinton feels that his "date" in a Federal government office with a young female intern had been a mistake - a man his age with a girl on her knees performing oral sex on him was not a great idea it had been a mistake. We ALL make mistakes. Mistakes are a part of life.
jonathan winant September 13, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Lets see the outcome of the investigation. Did the transportation company follow the prevailing laws? Did the parents every single one question about supervision? Did anyone (including youngsters) try to stop this individual from his stupid act? As the story explained there are a mulittude of unanswered questions. Still I feel for the parents and their loss.
John September 14, 2012 at 03:11 PM
I'm a 19 year old kid from Port and trust me i've done many stupid things in my day but now that i'm older i've left that all behind. I'm very sorry for this young man and his family but the kid should have known not to open something that you are only suppose to open incase of an emergency especially on a moving vehicle with others on board. What he did was beyond stupid and he lost his life for it. Don't blame the company even if they weren't supervising them. This kid was old enough to know that what he was doing could endanger him or others so why even risk that. I've done things that were dumb but never that dumb that it would endanger myself or others.
jonathan winant September 14, 2012 at 05:16 PM
John: I tired to explain this and all I received was comments about my lack of compassion for the greiving family. This is a story every parent should read to their children along with your comment. We do stupid tings in life both as youngsters and as adults. What parents have to drive home is that some of the things we do do not look dangerous only because we do not take a split second to think about it. Maybe the parents should (after they pass the period of greiving) and examine what role they might have played or not played in this very unfortunate incident. This is very important more so if they have other children.

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