Justice sought after nightmare bus ride
The bus driver also dropped off the Hahnville students 10 blocks from their New Orleans destination, forcing parents to track down the teens and safely lead them to a restaurant in the French Quarter.
In 2011 Jacque DeLoach signed a $2,040 contract for six hours with Party Bus Now LLC for a luxury bus to transport her daughter and 35 other Hahnville High School students to dinner in New Orleans and then homecoming.
DeLoach was shocked when the driver arrived late in an old school bus on homecoming night. The school bus, which was in poor condition, did not resemble the nice party bus promised on the website.
Despite having misgivings about the situation, DeLoach was forced to allow the students to board the bus because there was no other way to get the large group to New Orleans.
Thirty minutes later things began to go wrong. Instead of taking the children to Margaritaville in the French Quarter, the driver dropped them off 10 blocks away and made them walk. One of the children called DeLoach, who was waiting at the restaurant with other parents. The parents tracked down the children near the bus and walked with them back to the restaurant.
When one of the parents confronted the bus driver, about dropping the children off so far from the restaurant, the driver allegedly said he didn’t “give a sh** about the kids.”
Still, with no other choice, the students again boarded the bus after dinner to take them back to St. Charles Parish to attend the dance.
In later testimony to the Louisiana Public Service Commission (PSC), DeLoach said the situation worsened when they told the driver they expected him to remain at the dance for two more hours to fulfill the entire contract.
“After he dropped the children off, I got on the bus to speak to him. He still had two hours of his contract left, and I wanted him to sit there for the two hours and he didn’t appreciate that,” she said. “Words were exchanged. He was threatening my husband and I. At that point, it really got ugly and I felt for my safety. I should have called 911.”
DeLoach later called the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, who made an incident report, and then she contacted the PSC. It was not until an investigation was undertaken by the PSC that DeLoach found out her contract with Party Bus Now LLC had been subcontracted to Bourbon Street Limo who further subcontracted it to Ball Entertainment. None of those bus services are affiliated with the driver who eventually picked up the students, Sean Lewis.
“They brokered it out. They show up late and start making last-minute changes on you and you are stuck out there with 36 children,” DeLoach said. “There is no way to research these companies to know who is legit and who is not legit.”
Lewis’ business didn’t have a license to operate in the state of Louisiana. Investigators also believe that Lewis, who is a convicted felon, is not a licensed transport driver and didn’t have insurance on the old school bus used to transport the children.
DeLoach felt guilty after finding out that information.
“It left me feeling just horrible. I felt like if something would have happened to these children I would have been responsible and I let everybody down,” DeLoach said. “They entrusted my judgment and I put them in a very unsafe environment...after the fact not knowing this guy doesn’t even have insurance.”
The outcome of the PSC hearing was the levying of a $1,000 fine against Ball Entertainment, who subcontracted the bus contract to Lewis. DeLoach said the fine was a joke.
“He was still doing business and the state of Louisiana was not doing anything to stop him. It is just disgusting,” she said.
Earlier this year a number of other dissatisfied customers, including brides who thought they were getting luxury buses on their wedding day but were instead picked up in old school buses, contacted Fox 8 news.
In the news stories that followed, DeLoach said she finally felt that Lewis was going to get the treatment he deserved. The ex-con was eventually arrested this month in Jefferson Parish on auto theft and forgery charges and in St. Bernard Parish for threatening another business owner’s life.
Another investigation by the PSC is currently underway. However, DeLoach said the PSC should have stopped Lewis from doing business when she reported him back in 2011, which would have prevented others from being victimized by the fraudulent company.
“I would like to see the Public Service Commission do their job and stop this type of crime. It is happening to innocent people over and over again. I would like to see the Public Service Commission step up and do what they are supposed to do and protect us,” DeLoach said. “They have the power. If the Public Service Commission did their job this wouldn’t be happening.”
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