WASHINGTON - An Olathe, Kan., party bus company involved in a fatal fall has been ordered to shut down.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has ordered Midnight Express, LLC to immediately cease operations.
The government agency says the company's owners, Adam Breidenthal, Derrick Hansroth and Edward Goetz, were operating an unauthorized and unsafe commercial transportation service.
"There is no higher priority than safety," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. "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."
According to the FMCSA, a Kansas Highway Patrol inspection of the party bus found all four emergency exit windows were blocked and the rear emergency exit was blocked and the release mechanism was inoperable.
"We are grateful to the Kansas Highway Patrol for their partnership and dedication to duty," FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro said. "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."
Inspectors also found serious deficiencies with the vehicle's brakes and found engine exhaust leaks, according to the FMCSA.
"The Frecks family is angry in learning more and more about how this company was operating," the family said Tuesday in a statement. "They want to make sure other companies follow federal safety regulations to keep a similar tragedy from happening again."
In a separate federal investigation by the FMCSA, authorities found that the Midnight Express owners "failed to ensure that its drivers were qualified and had complied with federal hours-of-service regulations."
Drivers were not giving random drug and alcohol tests (required by federal regulations) and appropriate operating authority and insurance were not obtained, according to the FMCSA investigation.
The accident happened in Kansas City, Kan. Prosecutors in Wyandotte County are continuing a criminal investigation.
An attorney for Midnight Express, LLC had no comment on the federal order.