It is a complicated case because there were no witnesses when the party bus veered off Interstate 280 in Santa Clara County overnight, struck at a tree, then rolled down an embankment. Investigators say the driver was either unable or unwilling to communicate.
It appears only one vehicle was involved, what CHP officers described as a "party bus," going northbound on 280 just before the Alpine Road Exit. "The vehicle went off the road, hit a tree, and then it kind of overturned and then hit the other tree over there," CHP Officer Art Montiel explained.
A passenger sitting in the right front seat was killed. He was described as being in his 30s, but his identity has not been released. The driver apparently walked away from the accident.
Officers later found a man walking nearby. "He's not cooperating. He's not saying anything. So, at this time, he has been transported to Stanford in order to get him checked out," Montiel said.
The party bus was a converted van, a Chevrolet Express 3500 that can be configured for passengers or cargo. The CHP said it appeared to be set up for nine people. The name of the registered owner has not been released, although officers at the scene said it was not in use as a party bus at the time of the accident.
The converted van has caught the attention of state regulators and lawmakers. It is not a typical limousine or party bus, such as the one involved in a fatal accident on Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountains when a passenger fell out during a fight.
A spokesman at the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates charter vehicles, was not familiar with vans converted into party buses, nor was the staff of state Sen. Jerry Hill who wrote the law regulating underage drinking on party buses.
The CHP said Monday evening that this is now a DUI case. The driver has been identified as 43-year-old Jason Quinones. He is facing three felonies – hit-and-run, DUI, and manslaughter.