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Kansas City bus in fatality labeled "imminent hazard"

The Olathe bus was not safe with or without passengers. That's the conclusion of federal officials investigating last month's death of an Edwardsville woman in Kansas City, Missouri. The 26-year-old victim fell through the bus's back door onto Interstate 35 where she was struck repeatedly by vehicles in traffic.

An attorney representing some of the surviving 15 passengers said the young mother fell out of the vehicle when the bus hit a bump while rounding a curve. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said inoperable emergency doors were one of several "appalling" safety problems on the commercial vehicle.

The 1999 model bus had been a wheelchair van before its sale to Midnight Express LLC in Olathe. The company's three owners converted the commercial vehicle to a party bus which transportation officials said was a rolling accident waiting to happen.

The federal transportation agency slapped Midnight Express with an "imminent hazard" order, the harshest possible judgment. An inspection showed the underinsured bus had unsafe brakes, an empty fire extinguisher, a leaky exhaust and blocked, dysfunctional emergency doors.

Authorities said so many safety standards were violated that the bus was undriveable and dangerous with or without passengers. The federal agency said the bus company's safety practices were "utterly deficient."

The bus was the sole commercial vehicle operated by Midnight Express. Transportation officials said the company could not operate without full compliance with federal safety standards. Officials warned that failure to do so could result in severe criminal and civil penalties, including a $25,000 fine and prison time.

The fatal accident victim's relatives have hired an attorney who suggested the family was preparing a wrongful death claim for reckless negligence. The counselor intimated the plaintiffs would seek punitive damages to prevent a future "tragedy."

Liability lawsuits are won with indisputable evidence of a defendant's negligence. Jury awards increase when defendants' careless actions are shown to be willful.

Source:, "Olathe party bus company told to shut down after I-35 fatality" Mike McGraw and Tony Rizzo, Jun. 04, 2013

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