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EDMONTON – An Edmonton teen is on her way back home from Mexico after going through a terrifying ordeal on her bus to the airport.
Sixteen-year-old Ariel Ostrander was in Puerto Escondido, Mexico visiting her grandfather, who lives in the southern Mexican city for two months every winter. She was heading from Puerto Escondido to the Mexico City airport – a 720 kilometre journey – when the bus was taken over by several men around 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
“I fell asleep. And then I woke up to slamming doors and yelling and everyone screaming. And there were five Mexican guys who were on the bus and they were just going aisle by aisle, in Spanish obviously, going ‘give me everything, give me everything. I want everything you have.’ They were kicking people, abusing them.”
Ariel says the bus driver was seriously injured in the incident.
There were about 15 people on the bus at the time. Ariel says she isn’t sure when or how the men boarded the bus because she was asleep at the time.
The teen, who is an experienced traveller, says she did everything to protect herself and her bag, which contained her passport, personal health information, airplane ticket and cell phone. “My whole life,” she said.
“I hid it behind my back… and they couldn’t see it. And I just kept telling them ‘I don’t have anything. I don’t have anything,'” Ariel explained over the phone from Mexico City Sunday morning. “I just focused on my responsibilities because I didn’t want to make a scene. So I just stayed calm and just answered questions.
“It was frightening.”
Stephanie Ostrander, Ariel’s mother, says her daughter phoned her from the bus around 1:30 a.m. local time to tell her what was going on. Stephanie says “the worst things” were going through her mind as she phoned her father and Foreign Affairs in hopes of doing anything she could to help her daughter from so far away.
“It’s terrible. It’s your worst nightmare. It’s your absolute worst nightmare,” Stephanie explained. “You just want to somehow get on a plane right away and just go.”
After about 15 minutes the men got off the bus and left, Ariel said. Paramedics then arrived and took the bus driver to hospital.
Ariel says while everyone on the bus was pretty shaken up, she doesn’t believe anyone other than the driver was injured.
The group on the bus was taken to the nearest bus terminal and was given two options – to continue along to Mexico City or wait until later Sunday morning to take a different bus. The group decided to carry on.
In an emailed statement to Global News, Foreign Affairs says “it is aware of an attack on a bus that affected a Canadian citizen in Mexico.”
“Canadian consular officials are providing assistance and support. At this time, we have not received any reports that Canadians were injured. For privacy reasons, we are not able to release any further details,” the statement read.
Stephanie says she’s incredibly proud of the way her daughter handled herself, and credits that to the fact she is so well travelled.
“One of the reasons I took my kids travelling is so that they would understand that they are a part of the world. And there’s different cultures and situations and everything out there. And that I want them to have a deep respect for the whole world.
“I’m extremely proud of her. She’s my superhero to be able to stay calm in such a crisis situation is really quite unbelievable.”
Ariel says she’s heard stories about how dangerous certain areas of Mexico can be, but never thought something like this would ever happen to her.
“I don’t even want to think about it. It was too much. Being from Canada, that stuff doesn’t happen. Ever. Never,” she explained. “I’m fine. It’s just the last time I’m coming to Mexico, that’s for sure. It’s too dangerous.”
Ariel is scheduled to arrive home on Monday.
With files from Shannon Greer, Global News.