No criminal charges in death of B.C. woman who fell out of party bus - InfoNews

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No criminal charges in death of B.C. woman who fell out of party bus

Chelsea James is shown in a Vancouver Police Department handout photo. James, 23, died after falling out of a party bus in January 2016.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Vancouver Police Department
October 25, 2016 - 8:00 PM

VANCOUVER - A malfunctioning door was a main factor in the death of a 23-year-old woman who fell out of a party bus in January, but Vancouver police will not recommend criminal charges in the case.

Police said Chelsea James lost her balance as the bus was making a left turn just before 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 9. She stumbled into the stairwell and against the pneumatic passenger door, which opened and she fell out of the bus.

James, an educational assistant from Langley, B.C., was hit by the bus and pronounced dead at the scene.

After an extensive investigation, police determined that a mechanical malfunction and low operating pressure on the pneumatic door were the main contributing factors in her death.

Sgt. Brian Montague said air pressure and latches were supposed to keep the door closed, but it was not functioning properly and as a result the door was easily opened simply by pushing on it.

After consulting with Crown counsel and other legal experts, he said the VPD would not be forwarding a recommendation for criminal charges.

"There's no offence in the criminal code that would allow us to proceed criminally," he told reporters at a news conference Tuesday.

He said the owner and driver of the party bus have been fined under the Motor Vehicle Act for infractions including allowing alcohol on the bus. But he acknowledged the amounts of the fines were "very minor."

"Clearly, the family is upset that no one is being held criminally responsible for this incident. We've had lengthy conversations with Chelsea's mother," said Montague.

"She's not satisfied with some minor fines, and I can't say I blame her. But at this point that's all we have as a police department to use."

Montague said the company could still face a civil lawsuit.

Silver Lady Limousine Service, which in January issued a statement expressing "deepest sympathies," did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The B.C. government tightened rules for the limousine and party bus industry in February 2015. It required the Passenger Transportation Board to approve each vehicle for a special authorization licence and regulate rates, areas of operation and fleet size.

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said at the time that the change would allow the government to better regulate the industry and ensure operators were following their licence terms.

The changes followed the separate deaths of 16-year-olds Shannon Raymond and Ernest Azoadam.

Raymond and Azoadam died in 2008 and 2013, respectively, in incidents related to party buses in the Metro Vancouver communities of Maple Ridge and Surrey.

Azoadam collapsed and died on a party bus and while police said there was evidence of alcohol on the bus, the B.C. Coroner's Service concluded neither drugs nor alcohol caused his death.

Raymond died of an overdose of ecstasy taken while she and friends were celebrating a birthday on a party bus.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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