Party bus accident abruptly ends vibrant life

Jamie Frecks was loving life in recent months.

On Christmas Day, she got engaged to be married. In March, she gave birth to a baby girl. And on Saturday night, she attended a bachelorette party to celebrate a friend’s upcoming wedding.

But shortly before 10 p.m., everything changed in an instant.

Frecks, 26, tumbled out the emergency door on a party bus that was northbound on Interstate 35 in Kansas City, Kan., near the Southwest Boulevard exit, and was struck by three vehicles, according to a Kansas Highway Patrol report. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The 16 other passengers, all women in their 20s and 30s, and the 49-year-old driver were uninjured. Police shut down traffic in the northbound lanes of I-35 while investigators worked the scene.

The crash report said the first vehicle that struck Frecks did not stop. The driver of the second, a 40-year-old Kansas City man in a 2006 Ford F-150 pickup, stopped, but a third vehicle that hit Frecks also left the scene.

On Sunday, Frecks’ family struggled to grasp what had happened.

“We’re all in shock. It’s a nightmare,” said Cynthia Matteson, Frecks’ aunt. “It just doesn’t seem true. How can you pay for a service and expect to get somewhere and back safely, and now she’s lost her life?”

Frecks lived in Kansas City, Kan., most of her life, Matteson said. She graduated from Turner High School in 2005 and has an older brother and an older sister. Frecks enjoyed children and used to work part time as a nanny, she said.

“Jamie was a wonderful person, a lovable girl,” she said. “Her picture tells it all. A lovely smile, very beautiful girl. She loved her family, and she loved her baby.”

The baby, only 51/2 weeks old, is “a bundle of joy,” Matteson said.

Matteson said family members have no details yet about how Frecks fell out of the bus. And they don’t understand why two of the drivers who struck her didn’t stop.

“Those drivers, they felt the car go over something,” she said. “Even if they didn’t realize what it was last night, they know now that it was a person. And they need to come forward. Please, come forward and give some peace to the family.”

Matteson said her family has had its share of tragedies. Her son, Johnny Lee Baer, was shot and killed in 2009.

“They both had something in common,” she said of her son and Jamie. “Both had little girls at the time they died.

“Now I know they’re in heaven together.”

Another cousin, Ashley Frecks, said she and Jamie grew up together.

“She’s a very, very nice lady, and a great mother,” Ashley said through tears. “She always had a smile on her face. Whenever she told me goodbye, she’d say, ‘Later, Chickadee.’”

Ashley, who has a 6-month-old daughter, said her baby and Jamie’s baby were both born on a Friday.

“We called them the Friday Girls,” she said. “Jamie was hoping the girls would be able to see each other and play together every day.”

Ashley said she and Jamie talked or texted almost daily.

“The last time I heard her voice was Friday,” she said. “She was excited about going on the party bus.”

The driver of the 1999 Ford Econoline bus, Deborah Elmer of Basehor, said Sunday that she couldn’t talk about what happened. Elmer is listed as transportation director for the Bonner Springs-Edwardsville School District.

“I talked with the bus company I work for, and they told me that until they talk to the lawyers in the morning that I am not supposed to comment,” she said.

“It’s devastating. Just devastating.”

One of Frecks’ friends who was on the bus posted a note about the upcoming bachelorette party on her Facebook page Saturday.

“It’s going to be an amazing day!!” Jamee Yost-Schwartz wrote, with details of the upcoming party.

Early Sunday, Yost-Schwartz added a new post:

“Make sure and give your loved ones an extra hug and kiss and let (them) know how much they really mean to you because as I have been shown tonight life can be taken away from you in an instance.”