CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The North Carolina Highway Patrol released the inspection report Wednesday morning on the Charlotte party bus that a UNC Charlotte student fell out of an emergency window and died.
Charlotte police cited the owner of the bus after investigators discovered the bus did not have insurance and its license plate was fictitious.
The Highway Patrol's motor carrier unit spent four hours going over the bus in detail. In their inspection report, a number of violations were noted, including unmarked emergency exits, faulty windshield wipers, a discharged fire extinguisher, no warning devices, balding tires, and an engine oil leak.
Troopers also said that the bus was not registered with the state. The violations could bring more than $1,500 in penalties.
It's still not clear how 20-year-old Polly Rogers fell out of the bus and into traffic on North Tryon Street.
Trooper Ray Pierce, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol, said none of the violations would have caused the accident but they are serious enough to take the bus off the road.
There was no problem with the latch on the emergency window.
“Obviously, in this situation, we're going to go through this bus and this company with a fine-tooth comb and see what things were being done properly and obviously which things are not being done properly,” he said.
Earlier this week, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said the owner of the bus, Victor Rabb, "Voluntarily surrendered the vehicle to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol’s Motor Carrier Division to allow state investigators the opportunity to inspect the vehicle for any equipment violations."
Rabb told Channel 9 on Monday that he couldn't say why the insurance was not up to date.
"We're just trying to work through it," Rabb said. "It's just tragic. We have no comment at this time."
Court records show that Rabb has faced similar charges before.
In 2012, prosecutors dismissed charges of fictitious tag and operating a vehicle with no insurance.
A year later, he pleaded guilty to improper use of a dealer permit or tag.
The bizarre incident happened around 10:25 p.m. Tuesday on North Tryon Street near the intersection of Sugar Creek Road in northeast Charlotte. Witnesses said Rogers fell out of the emergency window of a Charlotte Party Charters bus and was hit by two cars.
Police are still investigating Rogers' death.
A report released last Thursday by CMPD said multiple people on board the bus were drinking alcohol.
The UNC Charlotte chapter of Kappa Sigma fraternity has been suspended by their national organization pending an investigation into Rogers' death. The bus was rented by the fraternity.
“The Kappa Sigma fraternity will fully cooperate with all investigations of the University and all local authorities,” said Mitchell Wilson, executive director of Kappa Sigma fraternity.
The police report on the incident said the bus was taking people to a bar in uptown Charlotte from an off-campus house on Mallard Creek Church Road.
“Alcohol use is an unknown factor at this time for the victim, however, alcohol was being consumed on the bus by multiple occupants,” says the report.
Police want to talk to any witnesses who may have seen what happened and urge them to call Crime Stoppers at (704) 334-1600.
"The cars hit her before they could even get the bus driver to stop the bus," explained the father of one of the other passengers on board. "My heart goes out to the parents because my son was standing right there."
He also explained how it happened.
"The girl leaned against the window -- which evidently was an emergency exit window -- and my son says the latches were broke, evidently, and she fell out," he said. "I don't think the girl did anything wrong. All she did was lean against the window."
Officers said Rogers fell out of a window on the right side of the bus as it was moving, and landed in the center lane of North Tryon Street before being struck.
She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Witnesses said the scene was chaotic.
"Out of nowhere I just come out of nowhere and started yelling, ‘Yo, stop, stop, stop, slow down, slow down, call 911, call 911. Call an ambulance! Everybody (just) kept driving and driving and driving," said Juan Vasquez.
Rogers was a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority.
"It's mind-blowing to think that we were all celebrating the last day of classes last night. I never would have imagined anything like that to have happened," said fellow student Cassidy Carvalho.
Police said the bus stopped and remained at the scene after Rogers fell. Channel 9 watched as officers interviewed distraught passengers.
Kristin Jones, Rogers' former cheerleading coach, was in disbelief about the tragedy.
"It doesn't really seem fair to lose someone so young," Jones said. “It’s such a tragic, unexpected accident."
Jones told Channel 9 she found out through a text message that the former Myers Park High School cheerleader was killed in the bizarre accident.
"I was in complete shock. I couldn't believe it," Jones said.
Alcohol Law Enforcement agents said they are following the case closely and suspect alcohol was onboard the bus, which was operated by Charlotte Party Charters.
An ALE agent told Channel 9 he's no stranger to Charlotte Party Charters' owner, Victor Rabb. The agent is currently working undercover on an unrelated investigation, but he shared previous issues they've had with the company.
"Yes, we've seen violations at the previous encounters. Alcohol violations, some commercial motor vehicle violations," he explained.
But investigators cautioned it will take time to determine if alcohol played any role in Tuesday night's incident.
"We're going to look at what the detectives find out and see if we can trace a source of alcohol," said the agent.
Channel 9 went to two of the multiple addresses associated with Charlotte Party Charters. It was registered on Freedom Drive, but it is not operating from that location.
Eyewitness News also found a website for the company that was taken down by Wednesday afternoon. It showed a policy on alcohol that states alcohol is allowed, but if there is alcohol on the bus, then everyone must be 21, and they must be required to show proof of their age.
But under terms of service, it states, "we are not responsible for verifying the ages of your passengers," and that the person renting the bus is liable for anyone drinking underage.
But ALE agents told Channel 9 that is the responsibility of the driver of the bus.
"The driver of the bus is in charge," said the ALE agent.
At this point, the owner of the company and the bus driver are not charged with any violations.
Rabb declined to speak with Channel 9 on camera Wednesday but said in a statement, "All I can say at this point is that one of the kids on the bus opened the emergency window and the lady fell out of the bus. This is one of the worst times of my life. I pray for her and her family. "
Zeta Tau Alpha released the following statement:
“It is with very heavy hearts that Zeta Tau Alpha mourns the loss of Polly Miranda Rogers, a member of Eta Tau Chapter at The University of North Carolina Charlotte, who died Tuesday, May 1.
"Polly, 20, was a sophomore majoring in Special Education. She joined ZTA in fall 2016 and was already an emerging leader in her chapter, serving as a New Member assistant, the signs chair and on the recruitment committee.
“Polly was the friendliest person you would ever meet in your life. She could always be found in the common areas of the house greeting sisters after their day at classes and making sure their day was going great,” said chapter president Alexis Marie Burns. “Her involvement within so many chapter committees showed the love she had for our sisterhood and fraternity.
"All of ZTA sends its sincere condolences to Polly’s family during this most difficult time. Chapters and individuals who wish to offer condolences to Eta Tau Chapter may send them to:
"Eta Tau Chapter will hold a remembrance service for Polly on Sunday, May 6 at 5 p.m. on UNC Charlotte's campus."
More than 150 Zeta sisters honored her with a ceremony on Sunday.
“She is so much more than a girl who fell out of a bus. She is a beautiful human and she should be remembered as that,” said Alexa Burns, UNCC’s ZTA chapter president.
"We're all 49ers, so I'm just glad that, as a collective, we're able to take the time out to memorialize her,” said UNC Charlotte student Aba Hutchinson.
The ceremony started with an old ritual that Zetas perform each time one of their sorority sisters dies.
Scriptures from the Bible were recited and friends shared their fondest memories, praising Rogers for her inclusiveness and always being the bright light in the room.
Her friends said they want Rogers remembered for her kindness. Her closest friends described her as selfless, passionate, ambitious and always brightening everyone's day.
"In just five days without Polly, we realize how much she has already left a legacy,” one sorority sister said. “She has already brought people to church to remember their faith in Jesus, making our Zeta sisterhood stronger than it has ever been and strengthening the UNCC Greek community in a profound way."
Rogers lived in the ZTA home with more than two dozen others and was majoring in special education, which was one of her biggest passions.
"If Polly had one thing to tell you all, it would be to cherish your friends and your passions,” another sorority sister said. “Lift each other up, go after what you believe in and never hold back."
Rogers’ favorite quote, “Be kind to one another,” was displayed for all to see.
Her sorority sisters challenged everyone here to live like Rogers did.
"Live your life to the fullest, to treat others with utmost respect and to love with your most genuine heart,” a sorority sister said.
Cox Media Group