A 27-year-old man died near north suburban Deerfield when he was struck by a passing SUV after he fell out of a moving party bus, according to the Illinois State Police (ISP).
On June 3, 2017, at approximately 3:00 a.m., James Larsen, of Libertyville, was riding in a 2012 Freightliner Truck Tractor limo bus, or “party bus,” on southbound I-294 at Lake Cook Road. Mr. Larsen reportedly walked toward the front of the party bus to turn up the volume on the radio.
Mr. Larsen then lost his balance and fell through the party bus door into the path of a black SUV, which fatally ran over him. The SUV then left the scene.
An autopsy the following day revealed that Mr. Larsen died of multiple blunt force injuries.
While investigators believe that Mr. Larsen’s weight was sufficient to throw the door open, his mother, Kimberly Larsen, expressed concern that the single-panel hydraulic door was not properly maintained and malfunctioned when her son fell against it. Specifically, Mrs. Larson worried that there could be a pattern of the hydraulics not being maintained, which may lead to further tragedies.
ISP Master Sergeant Jason Bradley said that his investigation into party buses following the incident suggested that the vehicles may be more dangerous than people realize. In 2014, for example, the Los Angeles Times cited a report linking 21 deaths from 2009 and 2013 to party buses nationwide. In the majority of cases, passengers fell from the vehicles.
No citations were issued to the bus driver, and the name of the rental bus company has not been released. The driver of the SUV is still wanted for questioning. His or her bumper was left behind at the scene. Additionally, a commercial vehicle enforcement officer was called to the site of the incident to launch an investigation into federal motor carrier safety regulations that may have been violated by the rental bus company.
“They will examine how the doors opened,” said Master Sgt. Bradley, “if it’s a safety flaw, if nothing mechanical went wrong, if there is a locking mechanism that should’ve been locked that wasn’t — there are several different ways those doors could’ve opened and it will be investigated and looked into.”