PORTLAND – A fatal accident over the weekend has brought a big problem to light in the Portland area: Party bus and limousine companies operating without the proper permits.
Eleven-year-old Angie Hernandez died after falling out the emergency window of a party bus Saturday night, and the driver of the bus, Martin Brouwer, Jr. did not have a valid commercial driver’s license.
Background: Eleven-year-old killed in Portland accident
The president of the Oregon Limo Association, Johnny Meeke, said the discrepancy is not uncommon. He estimated that 50 to 70 limo and party bus companies are operating in Portland without the proper permitting. That includes Five Star Limousine, the company involved in the weekend tragedy.
Although some of the buses in the Five Star line were permitted, that did not include the bus that Hernandez was riding in, city officials said. Five Star Limousine's license was suspended Tuesday, due to the permitting discrepancy. This means it can no longer operate in the city of Portland.
Other limo company owners who spoke with KGW complained that the city wants too much money for permits, so they operate with licensing only through ODOT.
"As far as them inspecting it, I know they haven’t even inspected half the cars that are out there, they open up the door, look in them and give them the permit. It’s about revenue. It’s not as thorough as people think,” said Eric Benson, owner of In Style Limos.
For that reason, Benson refused to get a Portland permit, and now operates outside of city limits.
As for Brouwer, although he did not have the proper license, his uncle told KGW that Martin did nothing to cause the accident.
“He did everything right, that was the sad part, and the girl shouldn’t have been sitting there,” Dick Brouwer said. “He wasn’t speeding, wasn’t doing anything excessive.”
An attorney for Brouwer issued a statement that read, in part: “Mr. Brouwer grieves deeply for the family of Angie Hernandez and all who have been touched by her loss.”
Five Star Limousine also released a statement Tuesday afternoon expressing condolences to the victim's friends and family.
A fund was set up to help Angie's family with funeral costs. Donations can be made the Angie Hernandez-Lara Memorial Fund at any metro area U.S. Bank branch.
KGW Reporter Mark Hanrahan contributed to this report.