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Better tracking of commercial vehicles needed, B.C. coroner says, four years after woman's party bus death

Last Updated Jan 28, 2020 at 12:07 pm PDT

Chelsea Lynn Mist James (Courtesy Vancouver Police)

B.C. Coroners Service recommends better tracking of commercial vehicle safety years after party bus death in Vancouver

Coroner also recommends system to manage quality of commercial vehicle inspections

Mother of woman killed after falling out of party bus says changes recommended now too late, but hopeful for future

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The B.C. Coroners Service is recommending the province better track the safety of commercial vehicles.

It’s in response to the 2016 death of a 23-year-old woman who fell out of a moving party bus in Vancouver when she stumbled and the doors opened. Chelsea James died when she was run over by the rear wheels.

In Coroner Cynthia Hogan’s report — released Tuesday morning — she recommends Victoria create a tracking system to ensure Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement orders are complied with and documented.

She also recommends a system to manage the quality of commercial vehicle inspections.

There were more than two dozen people on the bus on Jan. 9, 2016 when James stumbled into the doorway.

“A lot of injustice was done, and that bus was numerous times off the road,” Chelsea’s mother, Shelly, told NEWS 1130 after the report’s release. “It shouldn’t have been on the road.”

FILE – Chelsea James (Courtesy B.C. Coroners Service)

She said the report was hard to read, despite the information contained in it not being new.

“But it just really hits you hard,” she said.

Shelly noted there has been change since her daughter’s death, but she believes more needs to be done.

“The bus that [Chelsea] was on had been off the road multiple times — like more than 10 times for the same door — and every time they had it in, they couldn’t track what was done to it or if anything was done to it and a sticker was slapped on it,” she explained.

The owner and driver of the party bus were fined under the Motor Vehicle Act, but were not charged.

“Right now, I’m glad there has been changes made — I’m so thankful for that,” Shelly said through tears. “But my daughter paid the price, with no accountability. And that’s hard, that’s so hard, because they call it accidental, but it should have been labelled preventable accidental. I think this will help to make it easier and better for another family, so they won’t have to go through what we go through.”

Province accepts recommendations

Meanwhile, Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena said the province has accepted all of the recommendations, and that work was already underway to “strengthen the inspection and compliance processes.”

“Tracking and documentation systems will include software upgrades to make the systems as efficient as possible,” Trevena’s statement reads. “In the meantime we continue to prioritize safety through tougher enforcement and inspections, reflected in the significant increase in safety inspections completed in 2019. Last year we also brought into force significant measures to improve safety specifically in the party bus industry, including new measures to keep youth safe along with higher driver violation tickets and administrative penalties.”

According to the minister, while work is still needed, progress is being made.

-With files from Sonia Aslam and Martin MacMahon