A suburban Illinois man died in what police called a “freak accident” early Saturday, tumbling out of a moving party bus while attempting to turn up the radio.
James J. Larsen, 27, was on the bus as it headed northbound on I-294 near Lake Cook Road in Northbrook at about 3 a.m., Illinois State Police said in a release.
He was trying to turn up the radio volume when authorities said he tripped, falling down the stairs and out the bus door. He then fell backwards onto the expressway and an unknown car struck him, according to police.
Larsen, of Libertyville, was pronounced dead at the scene, officials said.
Larsen, who often went by Jim or Jimmy, “was a very smart young man, doing the right thing – not drinking and driving. He was out with his friends having a good time,” his mother said in a statement. “We were so proud of him and so saddened that his life was cut short. He had his whole life ahead of him.”
“We loved him so very much,” she added. “He was truly the love of our family.”
“Our only hope is that something good come out of this senseless tragedy and this NEVER happens to another family,” her statement ended.
No foul play is suspected and authorities said they do not currently believe anything criminal occurred, according to Illinois State Police.
However, they continue to search for the driver of the car that struck Larsen for questioning, adding that it’s possible the driver did not realize they had struck someone. Investigators recovered a part of the car’s bumper at the scene and are trying to determine what kind of vehicle it came from, police said.
The party bus was described as a 2012 freightliner party limo with a capacity of 32 people, according to police. 25 to 30 people were onboard the bus at the time of crash, authorities said, and the driver of the bus may have been going about 70 mph.
Officials said the bus door was a single-pane door activated by hydraulic pressure that opens and slides out, rather than a traditional double door as seen on most school buses.
Police are investigating why the door opened, and whether it may have malfunctioned during the incident.
Safety on party buses has been in the spotlight in recent years, with numerous fatal accidents reported across the county.
A similar incident occurred on a party bus in Los Angeles in 2015. Christopher Saraceno, 24, lost his balance, fell down the stairs and out the door before being struck and killed.
Without strict regulatory oversight, experts urge passengers to use extra caution when aboard a party bus.
“We will just have to check ourselves,” said National Safety Council spokeswoman Maureen Vogel. “We want celebrations to be celebrations and not turn into tragedies.”
“We definitely need to just be aware of our surroundings,” Vogel added. “Just because someone else is driving the vehicle doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t exercise the same safety that we would if we were the driver.”
The two right lanes of northbound I-294 were closed following Saturday’s crash, but reopened several hours later.
The investigation remains ongoing, according to police.
Published at 11:05 AM CDT on Jun 3, 2017 | Updated 3 hours ago