NEW YORK – It’s a familiar scene on city streets and in movies: dressed-up teenagers packed into a stretch limo, celebrating something important by jubilantly sticking their heads through the roof.

A bigger version of that is the rented party bus. Renting such buses — some two stories high, offering amenities such as strobe lights and satellite TV — “is what kids call fun nowadays,” said Emily DaRocha of Silver Star Limousine. “We’re talking about kids in the 21st century; that’s how it is.”

But such trips also carry more risk, as in the death this weekend of a New York 16-year-old who poked his head through a hatch that had been opened on a double-decker bus loaded with dozens of dancing teenagers on their way to a party.


Daniel Fernandez, a junior at St. Francis Preparatory School in the New York City borough of Queens, was fatally struck when the bus went under an overpass, authorities said.

“No matter how many times you tell clients this is an emergency exit — it’s written on the glass — they still open it,” said DaRocha. “It happens all the time.”

Her suburban Westchester County firm offers only single-level buses, Mercedes-Benzes that rent for up to $500 an hour.

But safety precautions must be followed, too. For a group of 40 guests, Silver Star requires two adults to be aboard if the group is made up of teenagers or children 18 or under.

“It’s much more dangerous when you have a double-decker with 65 kids — because they’re hard to control,” DaRocha said.

In addition to the driver, a security guard, Alex Franco, was on board the bus on which Fernandez was riding Friday, which was taking the teenagers from New York City to a sweet 16 bash in New Jersey. Design Limousines of New York operated the bus.


Franco said he watched for all but a few minutes, when, he told reporters, he’d gone downstairs. And that’s when the hatch was opened, after the bus crossed the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey.

Other private companies have given up trying to safely entertain a bus full of teenagers.

Near The Venetian, the event center that was the bus’ destination in New Jersey on Friday, is Garden State Limousine. The firm offers sweet 16 party packages, “but no more party buses, not for years,” said manager Joseph Ramsey. “It’s not easy to deal with kids.”