The destination was the Staples Center concert featuring superstars Jennifer Lopez and Enrique Iglesias. But a group of 38 friends thought their party should begin well before the music did.
They wanted their ride from Thousand Oaks to downtown Los Angeles to be as enjoyable as the show itself. So, they looked around and found what they believed would be the most fun way to make the trip.
"They had what looked like the best party bus on the market," said passenger Bruce Barrios. "It looked like a night club on wheels."
It was called The Super Sexy Party Bus.
"It had four great neon light-up stripper poles and a disco ball," said passenger Suzie Hayden.
She’s a party planner as director of sales and marketing at Los Robles Greens Country Club.
It all seemed worth the $1,850 fee for the group to ride in style. But they say things didn't go according to plan from the moment the Super Sexy Party Bus arrived to pick them up.
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The group said the bus was two hours late, so by the time they arrived at Staples Center, they had missed part of the concert. They also allege the air conditioning wasn’t working and the rolling nightclub turned into a rolling sauna.
"I thought I was going to die," said passenger Marco Jimenez.
And it didn’t get any better, according to the passengers. When the concert ended, and they gathered for the ride back to Thousand Oaks, they said the bus was nowhere to be found. Also missing -- their personal belongings they left on board.
Finally, they said they paid for a cab to take them home, ending an evening they describe simply as "horrible."
But the man who owns the limo company said it wasn’t quite like the passengers describe. Octavio Carrillo, of Platinum Express Limo of Garden Grove, admits the bus was late in picking up the passengers, but disputes his company abandoned the group at Staples.
"That’s not 100 percent true," said Carrillo.
He said the bus was parked, waiting for the group, just a block away.
"They did not want to walk, from what I heard."
He also said his company never had the personal belongings of the group.
"It’s not here," said Carrillo, "I don’t know."
The NBC4 Get Garcia team looked into the history of Platinum Express, especially the Super Sexy Party Bus. According to the CHP's last inspection in February, problems were found with the "emergency stopping system," "the emergency exit window latches," and the "defective… passenger (intercom) to talk to the driver in the cab."CHP Officer Mike Richardson says the violations “are not critical safety items, so it’s not something that would keep the bus (from) operating.” Still, Richardson added “the expectation is they get it fixed before it goes back on the road.”
The Public Utilities Commission, which regulates limousine companies, confirmed to NBC4 that it is investigating complaints about service and safety with Platinum Express. But records show Carrillo's permits to operate are in compliance as confirmed by the CHP and the PUC. Still, the company has an "F" rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Barrios, Hayden, and the other passengers say they want their money and their missing possessions back. They filed a police report, but the LAPD says this is all a civil matter.
"They’re just a bad company that needs to be put out of business," said Barrios.