GO bus driver Derrick Sealy says he’s lucky to be alive after a brutal assault by a passenger left him with bruises around his face and shoulders and multiple cuts that required 20 stitches.
“I think I’m lucky to get away [with] the injuries that I have,” said the 73-year-old transit veteran.
“It could’ve been worse.”
Sealy said he had just started his standard route from Hamilton to Richmond Hill on Tuesday of last week, when a passenger hopped aboard the bus and ran up to the second level — without paying his fare.
“I only said to him, ‘sir, would you like to come back and tap your card or let me see your tickets,'” Sealy said.
“He gave me no response, went straight upstairs.”
Sealy said he followed protocol by pulling the bus over and calling his supervisor.
But while they were waiting, Sealy claims the passenger aggressively requested him to start driving the bus. That, he says, is when things got out of hand.
“As he was walking towards me and he got closer towards me, he went and spat straight in my face,” Sealy recalled.
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In response, Sealy said, he grabbed the man by the throat.
“In my face,” said Sealy. “It doesn’t matter who it is, you will react to something like that because you don’t know the individual and you haven’t done him anything.”
Sealy said the man fought back by grabbing the bus driver by the throat with one hand — then raised his other arm.
Derrick Sealy still has bruises and cuts that required 20 stitches after he said he was knocked out and kicked several times in the head by a passenger. His story coming up on @GlobalNewsTO at 6.
— Kamil Karamali (@KamilKaramali) July 17, 2019
“I remember that one of his hands went up in the air and I put up one of my own hands to hold it and that’s the last thing I remember,” said Sealy. “I know he had something in his hand.”
Sealy said he gained consciousness outside of the bus while being attended to by paramedics.
He said he was told by other passengers that when he blacked out and crumpled to the ground, the assailant kicked Sealy in the head and upper body several times.
“Derrick [Sealy] dealt with a situation that is very rare,” said Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins. “That kind of vicious attack was just shocking to all of us.”
Aikins adds that Sealy accurately followed the bus drivers’ training manual by pulling over to call his supervisor after the passenger refused to pay his fare.
“Our drivers are trained that they’re not expected to confront non-paying customers,” said Aikins. “If they feel the ‘transit safety office’ needs to be called, then that’s what they do.
“They’re trained in de-escalation, trying to get the situation calmed down.”
Aikins added that Metrolinx plans to have a debriefing with Sealy about the incident and discuss what might have been done differently in that scenario.
Although Metrolinx said violent attacks on GO bus drivers are rare, the TTC, on the other hand, said its operators report one or two incidents of assault every day.
“When it comes to fare disputes, operators are trained not to engage with customers,” said TTC spokesperson, Stuart Green.
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“They can advise customers of proper fares that are due, but we don’t want our operators engaging in disputes or holding up service. If they suspect evasion, they can advise our Transit Control Centre and if it escalates, they can call in for emergency assistance.”
Sealy said he’s trying to move on from his harrowing incident, but his injuries are still plaguing him and he’s unsure when he’ll be able to return to work.
He said he’s also forgiven the man that left him injured.
“You forgive people for certain things,” Sealy said, “but you don’t forget.”
Meanwhile, 24-year-old Rocco Vietri is facing three charges related to the incident, including assault causing bodily harm and failing to comply with his probation.
Police have opposed his bail and he remains in custody.
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