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‘I really felt for them’: Random act of kindness sparks conversation about Halifax Transit pickups

Members of the Barho family are shown upon arrival in Canada on Sept. 29 2017, at the Halifax airport in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Enfield Weekly Press-Pat Healey

When Casey Lee Martin stopped to help a woman who missed her bus, she had no idea what the mother had been through.

It was Sunday morning and Martin was driving her car on Halifax’s Joseph Howe Drive, just in front of Superstore.

As she approached a red light, Martin noticed a Halifax Transit bus in her rearview mirror. The bus let some passengers off, closed the door and kept going.

Then she noticed a woman and two kids running to try to catch it.

“I could see the bus driver looking at them in the mirror, then the bus driver decided to close the door and drive up to the red light,” Martin told Global News.

READ MORE: Investigation into Barho house fire remains open nearly 4 months later

She couldn’t help but feel for the trio left outside. She is a young mother herself, and it was the hottest weekend of the year to date.

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She drove a bit further up, looped back to the bus stop, then offered all three of them a ride.

“At one point, I was a mom who had to take a kid on the bus,” Martin said. “I really felt for them.”

The woman, in broken English, accepted Martin’s offer. She asked where they were going, and the woman said they were headed to the hospital to visit her husband.

It wasn’t until they were midway through the drive that the woman revealed the children weren’t actually hers and that she had lost all seven of her children in a fire.

“She said her name, and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ I just couldn’t believe it,” Martin said.

According to Martin, the woman was Kawthar Barho, the mother of Ahmad, 15; Rola, 12; Mohamad, 9; Ola, 8; Hala, 3; Rana, 2, and four-month-old Abdullah — all of whom tragically lost their lives on Feb. 19.

Their father and Barho’s husband, Ebraheim Barho, remains in intensive care with serious burns.

WATCH: Saying goodbye to the Barho children

Click to play video: 'Saying goodbye to the Barho children' Saying goodbye to the Barho children
Saying goodbye to the Barho children – Feb 23, 2019

The whole ride home, Martin couldn’t get over the coincidence of her interaction with Kawthar Barho.

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“I drive by people all the time that are walking in the rain or carrying groceries, or you can tell that they missed the bus. I’m always inclined to ask them if they want a ride,” said Martin.

As she’s done from time to time in the past, Martin decided to take to Facebook to share her experience. But none of her previous posts has spread at the rate this one did.

Before the day ended, it was shared by over 5,000 people and had garnered over 1,500 comments.

“I didn’t anticipate this kind of reaction,” she said. “I just did what I thought was right.”

Natalie Horne of the HEART Society, who helped take in the Barho family in 2017, confirmed in a comment on the post that she’s since spoken with Kawthar about Martin’s act of kindness.

“Her face lit up with her lovely smile that we don’t see too frequently since the fire,” Horne wrote. “Your small act made the world of difference.”

Martin hopes the post and her experience evoke some form of change when it comes to bus drivers who leave passengers behind in order to follow their schedule.

“If it’s on a hot day where you can wait a couple extra seconds, I mean, what’s more important: getting to the next stop 10 seconds earlier or picking up a parent with children, or the elderly, at a bus stop, even if it means you have to wait a couple extra seconds?” she said.

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READ MORE: ‘We love you, we’re here for you’ — Funeral held for all 7 children killed in Halifax house fire

Martin went on to suggest that Halifax Transit tack on a few extra seconds for each route in order to give the drivers enough time to pick up all their passengers.

“I wasn’t really trying to cause a ruckus. I’m happy, if nothing else, that it brought awareness to it,” she said.

Halifax Transit said in an email statement to Global News that the expectation would be that a driver would wait for someone if the bus hasn’t started to move.

“Our drivers are trained to check their mirrors before pulling out, and if the passenger is close, then they are instructed to wait to let them on.”

Once the wheels start moving on a bus, Halifax Transit said the driver cannot stop to let someone else onto the bus for safety reasons.

READ MORE: ‘She called the father, she woke him up’ — Details emerge about Halifax fire that killed 7

“A bus could be sideswiped by a vehicle when a bus has stopped to let someone on. Also, people could injure themselves while running to catch the bus when they don’t see a curb or the end of a sidewalk and they fall.”

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Halifax Transit would not confirm or deny the incident that Martin said occurred on Sunday morning. But a representative said that if is brought to their attention that a bus hasn’t started moving, and failed to wait for someone who was coming, then Halifax Transit will investigate.

“We have video on board and on the sides of buses that we will review. And if it looks like the driver should have stopped, we will work with the driver to ensure they have a good grasp of the protocol moving forward.”

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