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Still No Resolution to Los Gatos Hwy 17 Party Bus Fatality

Natasha Noland, 25, died on Highway 17 after a fight on a party bus spilled out onto the freeway. Others have complained of safety concerns with the same company.

The California Highway Patrol continues to investigate the death of Natasha Noland, who was killed July 27 when she fell out of a party bus during a fight and was run over by it on Highway 17 in Los Gatos.

Meanwhile, another Santa Cruz group that booked a bus from the same company that night complained that the driver showed up with a too-small van, drove dangerously and crammed too many people inside, making some sit on the floor, Patch has learned. 

Investigators say they are still talking to sources and gathering evidence.

"Our investigators have been going back to Santa Cruz and doing interviews," said CHP spokesman DJ Sarabia, in San Jose, who added that the interviews are taking time.

"It turned into a big, huge case that once it started, people started making phone calls and it's been growing legs. There is no news other than that they are still working the case."

Sarabia said the case is being investigated as a traffic accident rather than as a homicide or case of vehicular manslaughter, but that could change.

Meanwhile, others have complained about their treatment by the party bus company, Party Bus of Santa Cruz.

Steven Pappas, 22, said he reserved a party bus the same night to attend the same Brad Paisley show as Noland and her friends.

But, said Pappas, an hour before the bus was supposed to arrive, he got a call from someone at the company who said the bus he had reserved blew a radiator hose and they could only send a 14-person van.

The trouble was, Pappas had 17 people lined up and had paid a $200 deposit for the $700 charge.

"He said you could all fit," Pappas recalled. "They were supposed to be here at 6 p.m., but showed up at 6:30 and there wasn't room for everyone."

Pappas thought he should drive two of his friends in a separate car, but the driver told him they could sit on the floor and it would be alright and he would discount the price.

"He took us over the hill at 65 miles an hour. Kids were telling him, slow down. He was weaving in and out of traffic. He wasn't a safe driver."

Some were so spooked they refused to go back with the van on the way home.

"My daughter didn't ride back on the bus," said Lori McCann, a mother who said she called the company several times and was hung up on and treated rudely.

She said the owner, John Reno, promised to refund their money, but never did.

Reno didn't respond to a request for an interview from Patch.

"The new law, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, will require bus companies to check IDs to determine if anyone is under the age of 21 is on the bus. Patrons who plan to have alcohol on the bus, must have an adult chaperone, who is at least 25 years old, to ensure that no minors are drinking. 

"Once the trip begins, the chaperone also will be responsible for notifying the bus driver if underage passengers are consuming alcohol. If it’s found that anyone under the age of 21 is caught drinking, the bus must return to where it started. The chaperone also has to make sure anyone suspected of drinking makes it home safely. Chaperones can also face misdemeanor penalties if they break the laws. The chaperone also has to make sure anyone suspected of drinking makes it home safely."

The death of Peninsula teen, Brett Studebaker, 19, in 2010, inspired the new law. Here is a sad story about his death.

Natasha Noland is the daughter of Pacific Wave surf shop owners Todd and Sue Noland. She was a buyer for the store and was enrolled to be a journalism student at Cabrillo College in the fall.

AR October 20, 2012 at 04:16 PM
capacity on these buses definitely needs regulation. while in florida recently, we used hotel shuttle buses that became so full (people standing is aisles, in the door stairwell) that i seriously considered taking my family off mid-trip, even in a rainstorm. but the law mentioned above seems poorly written. who wants to be this "chaperone"? the chaperone has to make sure each rider must get home safely? what if one passes out and chokes to death on their own vomit before entering their own doorway? no one sane would volunteer to have this resposibility, even for pay. at some point, an aggrieved party will attempt to sue a chaperone and the law will be gutted in a higher court that shifts the burden back on to the individual. people, you are responsible for yourself, even when wasted. no law can change that long term.
Jeanne Rajabzadeh October 20, 2012 at 04:16 PM
So sad,hope new laws will prevent this from happening to any other family in the future.

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