Two state lawmakers who said they were responding to an unsupervised party bus trip with dozens of intoxicated high schoolers aboard, introduced legislation Thursday requiring chaperones on buses with underage passengers.
"If this industry is not regulated, the results will be catastrophic for our young people," said state Sen. co-leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), who co-authored the bill with Assemb. Marcos Crespo (D-Bronx.) The lawmakers announced their intentions at a Bronx news conference.
The bill, which the legislators said was also inspired by the 2012 death of a Queens teenager on a chartered double-decker bus, would mandate at least one chaperone 21 or older for every 20 passengers under 21. The chaperone and driver could face a misdemeanor if those passengers were drinking alcohol.
It comes four days after 42 high school students, ages 16 and 17, set out from a Garden City home on a party bus owned by Coachman Luxury Transport of Farmingdale and Woodbury.
The teenagers, most on break from classes in the Sewanhaka Central High School District, had gallons of whiskey and rum and at least 100 cans of beer, authorities said. The driver later pulled over in Southampton. State troopers arrived in response to a 911 call.
Luis A. Guevara-Henriquz, 26, of Hempstead, the driver, was charged with child endangerment after troopers discovered the intoxicated teenagers.
State police said Guevara-Henriquz was responsible for the bus and its passengers. The bus company's owner said his employee did nothing wrong.
Guevara-Henriquz got a hint passengers were drinking when he heard a bang in the back and pulled over, Coachman president Matt Delaney said. The driver drew a curtain and saw teens drinking and damage to the bus, said Delaney, who attended the Bronx news conference. The driver called his boss.
"These kids have not been held accountable," Delaney said. "I am shocked at what was done . . . stuff torn apart."
Authorities said it was unclear Thursday who gave the group beer and hard liquor or how it was loaded onto the bus undetected. Also unclear was who ordered the bus to the home.
Delaney said parents were present at the Roxbury Road South residence. A teenager on the bus lived there, police said.
A parent handed over $120 for the driver's fee for six hours, plus an $80 tip, Delaney said.
The bus reservation was originally made last month by the father of one of the teenagers on the Monday trip. Dimos Papaioannou, of Franklin Square, said he booked the party bus last month for $2,500 so his daughter and some friends could attend a prom. The bus broke down before the prom trip, so the company sent a smaller bus to take the group there, Delaney said.
The company offered a voucher for a free trip after a caller identified themself as the parent who made the reservation and sought a refund, Delaney said.
Papaioannou said he didn't make the second call. He said that "for kids of this age, definitely, they're responsible," adding that he learned about the Monday ride the next day from his daughter and a voice-mail message from police.
"The main responsibility lies with the company and the driver," Papaioannou said.
Lawmakers backing the bill said the coming prom season underscores the need to require adult supervision.
Delaney said chaperones are not required on bus trips but are often provided by parents. The company will offer chaperones at a cost for now, Delaney said.
The proposal requires either a bus company or a parent to provide the chaperone. A driver cannot play the chaperone role.
It bears similarities to a 2013 California law passed after a teenager died in a crash hours after drinking at a party bus birthday celebration.
That law requires that when underage passengers are on board a party bus where alcohol is being served to adults, those under age must be chaperoned by someone at least 25 years old.
"We wanted to have a chaperone or someone responsible in the back of the bus," said California state Sen. Jerry Hill, who proposed the bill. "You have the driver in the front to take responsibility, but his main job is to drive."
With Maria Alvarez