MAPLE RIDGE (NEWS 1130) – A local mother is still pushing the government for improved regulations in the party bus industry, years after she lost her daughter in a tragic accident.
“I thought it was all a mistake–how could that possibly be?” thought Julie Raymond when two police officers knocked on her door and brought news that her daughter was dead.
Ten years ago Raymond lost her 16-year-old daughter Shannon in a “senseless tragedy” on the back of a party bus. She can still see her daughter’s body on a white gurney.
“The world felt like it had opened up and swallowed me…She still had sparkles on her face from her makeup. I kept praying a mother’s prayer that God would breath life into her and take my life instead, but there was nothing I could do to bring her back,” she recalls, choking back tears.
That night Shannon took ecstasy that night and died the next morning.
“Thirty-six people interacted with Shannon, all of which had opportunity to call 9-11 and save her life and not one of them did. Shannon agonized for hours before she took her last breath.”
Raymond says looking back she never should’ve let Shannon go out that night, but she said at the time she had trusted the people Shannon was with.
“It’s a mistake I will have to live with for the rest of my life.”
Since Shannon’s death, Raymond has been an advocate for improved safety on party buses, including stricter operating standards and tougher penalties for violations. She says Shannon’s death was the first linked to the party bus industry, but it wasn’t the last.
“There were two subsequent deaths as well as countless personal injuries attributed to alcohol or drug-fueled party buses. It wasn’t an isolated incident.”
Raymond has been lobbying for mandatory safety monitor in the back of the bus with passengers.
“People don’t realize that the driver is kept separate from passengers, and the driver is responsible and accountable for the safe operation of the vehicle as well as the equipment. But how is it reasonable that you can focus on driving when you have 20 plus some odd people behind you? You can’t know what they’re doing behind you,” she says.
“If, in the case of Shannon, had a safety monitor or a responsible sober adult been on board that party bus I wouldn’t be having this conversation,” she says, warning that if the industry remains without safety monitors, more deaths will occur.
So far, her campaign has been successful in getting perimeter-seating party buses put into a separate safety category, and making sure drivers undergo background checks. She has yet to see a change in making sure people renting and using party buses are aware of policies, and that drinking alcohol while on board is illegal.
Raymond says she’s been working with the NDP government on regulating that industry, but there’s been no “movement” on adding safety monitors.
-With files from Charmaine De Silva, Martin MacMahon