Two dead, dozens injured after bus driver attacked along California freeway

Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2002 at 9:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 1, 2002 at 9:30 a.m.

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - A passenger slashed the throat of a Greyhound bus driver as the bus traveled down a California freeway, causing it to careen out of control, authorities said. Two people died and dozens were injured.

Enlarge |

Rescue personnel tend to a passenger from an overturned Greyhound bus on Interstate 5, near San Joaquin, Calif., in western Fresno County, Monday night, Sept. 30, 2002. A passenger slashed the throat of the bus driver as he traveled down the freeway Monday night, causing his bus to careen out of control, authorities said. At least two people died and dozens were injured.

(AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Darrell Wong)

The bus, heading from Los Angeles to San Francisco, flipped on its side Monday evening and slid into a cotton field about 500 feet off Interstate 5 near Fresno, officials said. The bus was carrying 49 passengers.

Officials said the attack was not related to terrorism.

According to witness accounts, the man rose from his seat, walked briskly up to the driver and attacked him before 9 p.m., said Lt. Margaret Mims of the Fresno County Sheriff's Department.

"The driver was actually cut in the neck," Mims said. "He struggled, tried to defend himself and lost control of the bus."

Authorities caught the suspect as he tried to run away. His name was not immediately released, and he was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, Mims said.

"I saw a dude walk fast and pull past to the front (of the bus)," said passenger Howard Johnson, who suffered only minor injuries and later was reunited at a community center with his wife. "I'm feeling blessed."

Twenty-seven people were taken to hospitals, including three in serious condition, officials said. The others were still being evaluated, but most appeared to be in stable condition, nursing supervisors said.

Other passengers received minor scrapes and bruises.

Authorities originally stated that the driver was one of the two who died, but the Fresno County Sheriff's Department later said that he survived. He was in serious condition.

There was no word on what the motive might have been, but Mims said it did not appear to be anything that would require federal involvement in the investigation.

"If somebody is thinking terrorist or hijacking or anything like that, we don't have any reason to believe that's the case," Mims said.

Jamille Bradfield, a spokeswoman for Greyhound Lines, said a hot line had been set up for friends and family members of passengers to call for information.

"Our top priority right now is taking care of all of the passengers as well as the driver and their families," Bradfield said.

Almost exactly a year ago, on Oct. 3, 2001, a passenger on a Greyhound bus in Tennessee cut the driver's throat, causing a crash that killed seven.

Two weeks later, passengers on another Greyhound bus were credited with averting disaster in Utah after they helped thwart an alleged hijacker. And in November, a Greyhound passenger angry that he wasn't allowed to smoke scuffled with a driver in Arizona, causing a crash that injured 33.

Congress has included $3.85 billion in an anti-terrorism bill passed this year to augment aviation security. By contrast, it has approved $15 million for security improvements on intercity buses.

Dallas-based Greyhound, the nation's largest bus service with 20,000 daily departures, has hired a private company to screen some passengers with electric wands but has inspectors at only a portion of its terminals.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top