Feds to investigate local business after girl falls out of party bus in Portland

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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Federal officials have launched an investigation into a limousine service implicated in the Saturday death of an 11-year-old girl in Portland.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates commercial vehicles traveling between states, on Wednesday opened the investigation into safety practices of Five Star Limousine, a state official said.

Five Star Limousine operates limos and party buses in the Vancouver-Portland metro area. Angie Hernandez of Milwaukie, Ore., was sitting on top of a couch in one of the company's party buses and fell when an emergency window popped open as the bus drove in downtown Portland, police said.

While Five Star lists itself on its website as a Jantzen Beach business, records indicate it operates out of a Hazel Dell office with another company, Fly Right Auto Sales. Calls to Five Star's general manager, Rick Lycksell, at the Fly Right office and on his cell phone were not immediately returned Wednesday.

After federal authorities complete their investigation, they may turn over their findings to Washington officials, said Dave Pratt, assistant director of transportation safety for the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.

Questions remain about whether the business was operating in Oregon and Washington with proper licensing. Businesses are required to obtain separate licenses from different agencies to operate party buses and limousines.

Five Star Limousine does not have a permit to provide limo service in Washington, said Christine Anthony, spokeswoman for Department of Licensing. If a company is operating without a license, officials will first notify the business it must get one, she said. If the company doesn't comply over a set period of time, the agency sends a cease-and-desist warning.

Anthony said state officials have been made aware that Five Star doesn't have a license, and "we're certainly looking into this situation and will take any appropriate action."

The company is also not licensed to operate a party bus in the state of Washington, according to Pratt of the Utilities and Transportation Commission.

He said if federal authorities discover Five Star's party buses made trips within Clark County, state officials could open an investigation into its licensing and safety standards.

A Wednesday Oregonian story noted that Five Star had recently received a permit to operate in Portland and that four of its vehicles had passed safety inspections; however, the bus in question wasn't one of them. The bus driver also did not have a permit to drive the bus, The Oregonian reported.

Reached Sunday by a Columbian reporter, Lycksell, the service's general manager, said 90 percent of business is in Portland. However, the Five Star website advertises service in Portland, Vancouver and Salem.

"We are saddened and hurt," Lycksell told the reporter Sunday.


Laura McVicker: http://www.twitter.com/col_courts; http://www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker; laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.

Columbian assistant metro editor Dave Kern contributed to this story.