CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The owner of a party bus says he believes someone opened an emergency exit on the bus' window, which caused a 20-year-old college student to fall to her death Tuesday night.
According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, the incident happened in the 4500 block of North Tryon Street near Wellingford Street shortly before 10:30 p.m.
Police said the woman, identified as 20-year-old Polly Miranda Rogers, was riding in a Charlotte Party Charter bus when she fell out of the emergency window. Rogers was then struck by two other vehicles after falling out of the bus, officers said. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to the police report, while the bus was in the left lane on N. Tryon Street, an emergency window opened and Rogers fell out and into the center travel lane, where she was hit by at least two vehicles.
The bus, police said, was going from an off-campus house on Mallard Creek Church Road to uptown Charlotte.
Alcohol was being consumed on the bus, the report says, but alcohol use as a factor in the incident is still under investigation.
Alcohol is allowed to be brought onto the bus, according to Charlotte Party Charter's website. The site also states everyone on the bus must be at least 21 years old if alcohol is present, but the company says they are not responsible for verifying the ages of the passengers.
Rob Tufano, a spokesman for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, told reporters the investigation would be thorough - wanting to do it right instead of fast.
"I read the narrative this morning and as a person that has daughters of my own, how can this not tug at your heartstrings?" Tufano asked.
Charlotte Party Charter owner Victor Rabb said there were about 55 to 60 people on the bus when the trip started at UNCC's campus. The bus was headed to a bar in uptown Charlotte when Roger fell out.
Rabb showed WBTV how the windows in the bus slide back and forth. He believes that someone pulled the emergency handle on the window near Rogers, which forces the window to open much wider.
"I don't know where she was sitting or standing or what - the window, of course, popped open and she fell out of the bus," Rabb explained.
Rabb says there are six emergency window exits on the bus. He says the drivers talk to people who ride the bus about the rules before taking off.
"We tell them to behave, for one, and part of that is obviously, along with the signage, is do not mess with the emergency windows unless it's an emergency," he said.
He said in the company's 13 years of operation they had never had an incident like this.
"There's just no way to foresee anything like that," he told WBTV. "In fact, I can't even think of a situation where anybody got hurt."
However, Charlotte Party Charters may be facing additional questions beyond CMPD. Safety records with the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration list the company on West Freedom Drive even though we found them in Gaston County.
Federal documents say the company has three vehicles, eight drivers, and zero inspections.
"The buses are inspected. DOT inspections, but we can't honestly say we've had a lot of anything like that," Rabb said.
Rabb says he's coopering with investigators, but his thoughts are in another place.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family. I have kids too," he said.
Rogers was a sophomore at the university and was studying special education, school officials said.
RELATED ARTICLE: Campus in shock over UNCC student death
A student says Rogers was in the university's Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. Rogers' sorority sisters created a GoFundMe page to help with memorial costs. "This tragedy has left unexpected expenses placed on the Rogers family," according to the GoFundMe page.
A portion of North Tryon Street was shut down in both directions for some time while police investigated the incident.
If you have any questions, you can call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.