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Party bus company shut down after young mother's death

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KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -

Federal officials are weighing in on a deadly party bus accident that killed a young mother, saying the vehicle was so dangerous it should have never been on the road.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has ordered the Olathe-based company Midnight Express to immediately shut down its passenger service.

In a federal report, the company is listed as an "imminent hazard," and the owners, Adam Breidenthal, Derrick Hansroth and Edward Goetz, were operating an unauthorized and unsafe commercial transportation service.

The out of service order was issued May 29. It says the company's structural and safety management controls "are so utterly deficient" that death or serious injury could occur if the company wasn't shut down.

"There is no higher priority than safety," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a written statement. "Passengers on any commercial van or bus should feel confident they've boarded a safe vehicle, one that is properly maintained and operated by a qualified driver.  Carriers that cannot meet our safety regulations will not be allowed to operate."

Jamie Frecks, of Edwardsville, KS, was out for a rare night of fun with 15 girlfriends for a bachelorette party on May 4, when she fell out the emergency door of the party bus they were occupying.

The 26-year-old mother was hit by three cars on Interstate 35 near Southwest Boulevard, but only one of the drivers stopped after hitting her. The two other drivers have since been located.

Frecks' distraught family is horrified to learn the poor condition of the bus and that the bus company had such a dismal record.

"This will never bring our little girl back," her aunt Cynthia Matteson said. "It's not fair to any human that entered that bus ... Why did they allow any of those girls to be on that bus?"

A subsequent inspection of the vehicle by the Kansas Highway Patrol found that realigned seating modifications made to the vehicle resulted in all four emergency exit windows being blocked.

The federal report does not say whether any of the faulty features caused Frecks to tumble out of the back door onto the interstate.

According to the federal order, safety violations included faulty brakes, blocked and inoperative emergency doors, an exhaust leak and an empty fire extinguisher.

"We are grateful to the Kansas Highway Patrol for their partnership and dedication to duty," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "We will continue to work together, to strengthen our partnership in order to remove unsafe commercial vehicles and operators from our roads and protect the traveling public." 

During the investigation, authorities found that the Midnight Express owners failed to ensure that its drivers were qualified and had complied with federal hours-of-service regulations.

The drivers were also not subjected to random drug and alcohol tests as required by federal regulations, federal officials said.

Midnight Express owners also failed to obtain USDOT passenger carrier operating authority and to carry $5 million in liability insurance federally required for all commercial passenger carriers.

"How are those people able to sleep, able to think or even have peace of mind because we don't," Matteson said. "We lost someone [and] we'll never have her back."

An attorney for Midnight Express declined comment Tuesday.

"They evidently didn't care about anything but dollars," Matteson said.

The Wyandotte County District Attorney's Office is continuing its criminal investigation. Fines of up to $25,000 are possible.

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