Washington willing to listen about party bus industry

Julie Raymond continues fight against party bus operators after her daughter Shannon died in 2008.

Calls to end liquor being served on party buses are growing stronger.

Calls to end liquor being served on party buses are growing stronger.

Julie Raymond has learned that if the B.C. government doesn’t want to listen to her about the party bus industry, our neighbours south of the line are willing.

Washington State is rewriting its laws on party buses to make it a requirement to have an adult supervisor in the party section of the bus whenever kids are on board.

Julie and her daughter Danielle have been campaigning for seven years to toughen B.C.’s laws concerning the party bus industry.

Julie’s daughter Shannon died on July 26, 2008 after consuming alcohol before, then taking an ecstasy pill on a party bus.

She was 16.

Julie and her daughter addressed a Senate committee looking into the issue in the Washington capital of Olympia, earlier this month.

“They’re learning from the mistakes B.C. has made,” said Julie.

Washington wants to make it mandatory to have adult supervision in the passenger part of the bus whenever minors are on board.

“That person will be held responsible for whatever happens on the party bus.”

That requirement, while increasing costs for party bus companies, will also help with driver safety because he or she will have fewer distractions to worry about.

“How can you focus on driving when you have all the activity behind you?”

Raymond said she and her daughter Danielle have been invited back to Olympia a second time, but can’t make it.

Danielle told the Senate committee that she and her mother “began pressuring our government to take action, but unfortunately, no one we approached was willing to even have a conversation about it until 2013, when another 16-year-old in our province died.

“In addition to these two deaths, our province has also seen stabbings, fights, assaults, medical distress calls, patrons falling out of unsecured doors, and patrons being ejected and left in dangerous locations. These kinds of horror stories are not unique to our province or to Canada. I know America has had more than its share of alcohol-related deaths and close calls attributable, at least in part, to party buses.”

Danielle said the buses “present a continued risk, not just for the minors on board, but also for the general public. It is an obviously dangerous situation that, if it is allowed to continue, will only result in more tragedy.”

Shannon’s death was the first in a spate of tragedies involving party buses in Metro Vancouver, an industry that’s since expanded to 4,000 vehicles across B.C.

In February 2013, 16-year-old Ernest Azoadam died on a party bus in Surrey.

In November 2013, a 17-year-old girl from Abbotsford was dumped at a truck stop and beaten up after a trip on a party bus.

However, the B.C. government has said it wants to focus on educating the industry about the existing laws. It’s illegal for anyone, of any age, to consume booze in a vehicle.

Julie said after meeting Transportation Minister Todd Stone last June that he referred her to Attorney General Suzanne Anton, who then referred her back to the transportation minister, and was told that adequate laws are in place.

“They have issued all these cautions, but nobody’s licence has been taken away or suspended. There will be another incident where there will be another death,” said Julie.