Are your drivers Qualified?

by KGW Staff and Abbey Gibb

PORTLAND -- The driver in a party bus crash that killed an 11-year-old girl Saturday night did not have a valid commercial driver's license, according to DMV records obtained by KGW.

The girl was killed when she fell out of a window of the bus, operated by Five Star Limousine.

Family and friends were on the bus celebrating a Quinceanera, which is a Latin celebration for a girl turning 15 years old.

Angie Hernandez leaned against an emergency window and fell out as the bus was making a turn in downtown Portland, said Lt. Robert King with Portland Police Bureau.

King said the window was unlocked and it swung open. Emergency windows are supposed to remained secured during the hours of operation, so he said investigators were working to determine why it would have been unlocked.

The accident happened about 6:30 p.m. Saturday as the bus was making a turn from Southwest 1st Avenue onto Southwest Harrison Street. Hernandez died at the scene from traumatic head injuries.

Lt. King said there was no indication alcohol was involved, and he called the incident a tragic accident. And that’s also what the party bus driver’s family is calling it.

“He wasn’t really responsible for it. He’s just devastated by it because he has a little girl the same age,” said the driver’s Uncle, Dick Brouwer.

The Uncle said his nephew Marty Brouwer never saw the little girl fall.

“All he saw was a vision in the mirror and that was the little girl laying in the middle of the street," explained Brouwer. "He did everything right that was the sad part. He wasn’t speeding, wasn’t doing anything excessive.”

Heather Hall, who lives in an apartment that looked down on the tragedy, said she heard screaming. People were crying, she posted to KGW, and another man in the group punched a street pole. The party's teen hostess, dressed in a gown for the event, cried as she peered down on Hernandez.

Rick Lycksell, general manager of Five Star Limousine, said nothing like this had ever happened with his company. He said the driver had a perfect record while working for them during the past five years. But Oregon Dept. of Motor Vehicles records indicate the driver did not have a valid commercial driver's license.

"I have kids. A lot of people in our company have kids. It's very hard," Lycksell told KGW. "It's just not fair; she had a long life to live and she should have been able to live it." He said the driver of the bus "burst into tears. He was very upset. He has a little girl that's 10 years old."

We are just deeply, deeply sorry this happened, we don't understand how it happened,"said Lycksell.

Other local limo companies want to make sure an accident like this doesn't happen again.

“It’s been a shock. The problem is, when you get kids in here, they want to push every button,” said JMI Limo owner Johnny Meeke.

Meeke wants to install a buzzer, notifying the driver, when the latch is pulled before the window can open. But his sympathy goes out to all the families.

“I’m sure if he had known the kids were sitting up there, he wouldn’t have let them. It could have happened to anybody.”

Angie was a sixth-grader at Rowe Middle School in Milwaukie, where her teachers said she was helpful in the classroom, well-liked, and loved to read.

Grief counselors were sent to the school Monday morning to help students and staff cope with her death.