Friends remember UNCC student killed in party bus fall as 'special spirit'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Friends and family are remembering a UNC Charlotte student who died after police said she fell out of a window on a party bus and was hit by two cars Tuesday night on North Tryon Street in northeast Charlotte.

[IMAGES: Woman killed after falling from party bus in northeast Charlotte]

The crash happened around 10:25 p.m. on North Tryon Street near the intersection of Sugar Creek Road in northeast Charlotte.

Investigators told Channel 9 that 20-year-old Polly Rogers died after she fell out of the emergency window of a Charlotte Party Charters bus and was hit by two cars.

"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 was kept driving and driving and driving," said Juan Vasquez.

Authorities said the bus was on its way to a bar in uptown from UNC Charlotte, and university officials confirmed that Rogers was a student at UNCC. Channel 9 learned she was a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority.

[IMAGES: Polly Rogers, UNCC student killed after falling from party bus]

"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.

"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 Zeta Tau Alpha Chapter President Alexis Marie Burns.

Channel 9 was told that Rogers was an emerging leader in her chapter, and served in multiple roles, including the recruitment committee. UNCC said she was studying special education at the Cato College of Education.

"Her professors describe her as warm and caring, as do others who had the pleasure of knowing her," said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Kevin W. Bailey.

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.

Jones said Rogers had a huge heart for children. Her favorite memory of Rogers was when she volunteered at the Levine’s Children Hospital during the summer.

“She was such a special spirit and that's definitely something I will always remember about her -- sharing that Levine Children’s Hospital experience together," Jones said.

The cheerleading coach is working with other cheerleaders to come up with a special way to honor Rogers during her celebration of life.

So far, no charges have been filed. Police said speed was not a factor in the incident.

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. "

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