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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