A Cadillac Escalade limousine rented by 20 teens to take them to the prom at Kenmore's Inglewood Golf Club broke down on I-405 in Bellevue.
Less than an hour of the May 11 dance was left when they finally got there. And what was planned as a fancy evening became a chaotic scramble for rides.
Mary Haff, whose daughter Luca organized the limo rental, disputes what the owner of JJ Limousine Service said happened after the car died. And teens said the limo they reserved wasn't the one that showed up. All agree the unfortunate incident ruined what began as a well-planned evening.
"It shouldn't have happened. It sucked. But for the most part we also had fun," Glacier Peak senior Quin Tuckman said.
"I did the best I can," said JJ Sidhu, owner of the limo business based in Bellevue and Seattle. He said the problem was the car's alternator, which is now repaired.
Both Sidhu and Mary Haff said the rental fee of $1,134 was refunded on prom night. Haff, though, has serious concerns after what she believes could have been a roadside tragedy.
"I think we need some answers," the Clearview-area mother said. She has complained to Sidhu's company and to the Washington State Patrol.
After being picked up by the limo at Glacier Peak in Snohomish, the dressed-up teens were headed for dinner at Seattle's Hard Rock Cafe. The limo died in the right lane of southbound I-405, near Overlake Hospital. It lost all power, so windows didn't work.
After parents brought cars, the kids finally made it to dinner late, and to the dance much later.
"People were starting to leave," said Madeline Hart, Tuckman's date. "By the time we got there, there were only about a quarter of them left."
Missing the biggest night of high school is no fun. Worse, Haff believes, is a lack of responsibility by the limo company and a troubling response by the State Patrol.
The teens and Haff say troopers stopped at the scene twice. First, a trooper moved the limo onto the shoulder. A second State Patrol car stopped briefly and the trooper talked with the driver. Haff thinks an officer should have talked with the teens and stayed on the scene.
"It's undisputed that two troopers took time to check on the vehicle," said Bob Calkins, a State Patrol spokesman. "We made sure the vehicle was clear of the road. And we checked with the driver of the vehicle, who appeared responsible and who assured the trooper that assistance was en route."
Calkins said troopers assess every situation. If the car had been in a more dangerous spot or far from help, an officer might have stayed, he said.
Sidhu said he went to the scene within 15 minutes of being called by the driver. He also said he had calls from Haff about the possibility of sending another limo. He said he told her all his cars were booked. He also said he believed the teens had already called parents for transportation.
Haff said that wasn't the case. She said she and her husband had been contacted by the teens, but expected the limousine company to fix the problem by sending other vehicles. She also said the 2006 Escalade that broke down wasn't the newer model her daughter had booked online, and that the car was in disrepair.
The business owner said he told the driver to keep the kids in the car. It was a warm night, and the car heated up.
"It was way too hot," Haff said. "They were on the side of the road for almost an hour and a half. Kids were on the side of the road, with cars whizzing by, pretending like they were hitchhiking. They're teenagers."
Hart feels badly for Luca Haff, who planned the evening. The kids rushed through dinner, which couldn't be canceled without losing more than $600. And instead of after-prom dessert in downtown Seattle, they went bowling in Lynnwood.
"It's not how you would imagine it," Hart said, adding that it was odd to be stuck along a freeway in a lavender gown and 4-inch heels.
For Haff, there was more at stake than a memorable prom.
"It's mainly the safety of the kids," she said. "They were clearly put in danger."
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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