Just days after the B.C. government reminded party bus operators of strict new fines for the holidays, Vancouver police have slapped a company with a heavy penalty for transporting minors with alcohol.
Police say traffic officers were assisting the Passenger Transportation Board with a joint project targeting limousines and party buses Friday night when the fine was issued.
Officers stopped a party bus that was found to be carrying 18 minors, without adult chaperones, while alcohol was on board.
Police say the company is now on the hook for $27,000 in fines — amounting to $1,500 per passenger, which is the minimum statutory fine for carrying minors.
Parents were notified of the incident, while the bus was escorted to its intended destination in Vancouver.
Police say no charges are being considered for any of the minors. The alcohol was seized “for destruction,” a spokesperson added.
The Passenger Transportation Board is now reviewing the party bus’ licence.
VPD traffic officer Mark Christensen, who says he was involved in the operation, noted Sunday the investigation is ongoing and the fine could rise as high as $50,000.
That’s the maximum fine listed under the province’s new regulations for party buses, which came into effect on Sept. 19. Before that date, the maximum fine was $1,500.
New rules that came into effect in April also require a person on board who is a safety monitor, trained in first aid and able to administer naloxone if unaccompanied minors are in the vehicle.
Parents must also sign a consent form for all minors on board.
Just this Thursday the province reminded the public that consumption of alcohol and cannabis are illegal inside all vehicles, including party buses, and that police would be stepping up enforcement for the holiday season.
According to the Ministry of Transportation, officials have conducted more checks on party buses in 2019 than in the past three years combined.
The party bus industry has faced increasing scrutiny during those years after a series of incidents.
In November, 2017, a party bus caught on fire in downtown Vancouver.
In January 2016, 23-year-old Chelsea Lynn Mist James died after falling from a party bus in Vancouver, an incident found to have been caused by a mechanical failure.
And in February 2013, 16-year-old Ernest Azoadam collapsed and died on a party bus in Surrey.
The BC Coroners Service ruled out drugs or alcohol in his death.
—With files from Simon Little