'Breaks our hearts': Mother of young woman who died on party bus wants tougher rules
'Please, if you can, find other means of transportation for your loved ones,' mother says
Nearly a year after her daughter's death, Shelly James says little has changed when it comes to party bus regulations.
"We are angry," said James. "We are very disappointed that someone can pass away in the province of British Columbia and have no body accountable for that death.
"That breaks our hearts."
Her daughter, Chelsea James, was two weeks away from her 24th birthday when she died.
She was one of 28 people on a party bus when she stumbled against the pneumatic passenger door as the vehicle turned left off Hastings Street onto Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver last January.
The door opened, and James fell out of the vehicle onto the pavement where she was run over. Police investigations would later reveal that the door was not functioning properly and was easily opened by simply pushing on it.
"The investigation found the safety latch gone and a valve put in backwards," said James.
Criminal charges were not recommended in connection to the death.
"She was a responsible young lady," James said. "She didn't want to drink and drive and it should have been safe."
She worries for other parents as New Year's Eve approaches and the demand grows for party buses.
"Please, if you can, find other means of transportation for your loved ones," James said.
"It needs to be looked at further. This shouldn't just be swept under the carpet.
"Really, really think about when your sons, daughters, nieces and nephews get on a bus that it is safe. And the sad thing is, you think it would be," she said.
James said she has sent three letters to the Ministry of Transportation asking the minister, Todd Stone, for tighter regulations, but hasn't received a response.
"It breaks my heart that he (Stone) can't reply or somebody can't reply to say, 'Hey, we need to look into this,' " she said.
The Ministry of Transportation said in a statement that it did strengthen the licensing regulations by introducing mandatory licensing and registration as well as stiffer penalties.
Party bus vehicles also need to undergo safety inspections twice a year at province-approved inspection facilities, which need to be performed by authorized mechanics, the statement said.
But NDP MLA George Heyman, who represents Vancouver-Fairview said more needs to be done.
"He (the minister) made one minor change in licensing but there hasn't been adequate follow-up, either regulations pursuant to the change in legislation, or enforcement by the transportation branch," said Heyman.
In 2014, Heyman introduced the Safeguarding Young People's Future Act, and since then has introduced provisions that call for stricter rules around the province's party bus industry.
Heyman wants to see safety training for operators, and chaperones to be on-board,
"We are now approaching New Years Eve, we don't want to see any more needless deaths in British Columbia, in an industry that needs help to regulate itself," said Heyman.
With files from Tanya Fletcher