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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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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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