Santa Cruz Sentinel, Published July 28 2012
Woman dies after falling out of moving party bus on California highwaySANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Natasha Noland, a 2005 graduate of Santa Cruz High School and daughter of a well-known surf shop owner, died late Friday when she fell out of a party bus on Highway 17 in California while traveling home from a country music concert in Mountain View.
Noland, 25, is the daughter of Pacific Wave surf shop owners Todd and Sue Noland.
According to reports from the California Highway Patrol, Noland was among a dozen or so people — highly intoxicated — who had taken Party Bus of Santa Cruz to the Brad Paisley concert at Shoreline Amphitheater.
Noland reportedly got into a fight with another woman inside the bus when a door opened and both women fell from the moving bus onto the highway's southbound lanes between Lark Avenue and Highway 9 in Los Gatos at 11:50 p.m., CHP officials said.
Noland was run over and killed by the bus, CHP officials said.
The other woman, a 20-year-old Felton resident, was taken to a nearby hospital with moderate injuries, CHP spokesman DJ Sarabia said.
The woman, whose name was not released, “had road rash all over her body,” but didn't suffer any internal injuries, Sarabia said. He did not know if she had yet been released.
A number of passengers fled the scene after the accident, Sarabia said.
A man who answered the phone Saturday at Party Bus of Santa Cruz, on Portola Drive, said, “No comment, please do not call back.”
Noland worked as the women's buyer at Pacific Wave on Pacific Avenue.
Employees at the surf shop were devastated by the news on Saturday.
Assistant manager Jessica Eshom described Noland as a “super fun person,” who was friendly and generous. She was known for being fashionable and loving country music.
“She had a good heart, a good soul,” Eshom, 25, said. “She was an all-around amazing person. It's unbelievable what happened.”
Another friend of Noland, Natalia Lockwood, 22, said the two had an “instant bond” when they met a year and a half ago at a “girls night in party” at a mutual friend's house in Santa Cruz.
Lockwood and Noland stayed in touch regularly after the party through phone calls, texting and Facebook, said Lockwood, a longtime Santa Cruz resident.
“When we met, it felt like we had been friends forever,” she said. “She was always happy and doing fun things and hanging out with friends.”
Sarabia said the driver of the bus, a woman, has not been charged and that the incident remains under investigation.
Two passengers were arrested for public intoxication, Sarabia said. But with the exception of the bus driver, “absolutely everyone was highly intoxicated,” he said, and none of the passengers were cooperative when questioned about what happened.
“We're hoping once they sober up they'll cooperate a bit more,” Sarabia said.
Highway 17 was closed between Lark Avenue and Highway 9 until 3:30 a.m.
The accident comes as a bill seeking to clamp down on party buses is making its way through the state legislature. The bill, introduced by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, in 2010 and passed by the State Assembly last year, would require party bus drivers to check to see if any passengers are younger than age 21. If any passengers are under the drinking age, alcoholic beverages would be prohibited from the passenger compartment unless someone 25 or older is on board and has been designated as a chaperone for the group.
Had the bill, which is expected to go before the state Senate in August, been law already, “It could have prevented what happened last night,” Hill told the San Jose Mercury News Saturday.
Hill sponsored the bill after 19-year-old Burlingame resident Brett Studebaker was killed in another party bus-related accident in 2010. Studebaker died in a car crash after spending three hours drinking on a party bus. At the time of his accident, his blood alcohol level was 0.26, more than three times the legal limit.