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Man accused in Kelowna, B.C., bus driver assault pleads guilty

Click to play video: 'Bus driver’s assailant pleads guilty to assault' Bus driver’s assailant pleads guilty to assault
Bus driver’s assailant pleads guilty to assault – Dec 11, 2020

In court this week, the man accused of an unprovoked attack on a Kelowna, B.C., bus driver pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm.

In March 2019, bus driver Peter Lansing picked up a passenger at the Rutland Exchange.

He didn’t expect what came next.

Read more: Kelowna bus driver shares story of assault on Day of Mourning

“I got punched in the head,” Lansing said. “I didn’t even see the guy lift his hand, and then I was unconscious.

“I, fortunately, or unfortunately, slept through a nightmare and woke up with police, fire and ambulance shining lights in my eyes.”

The driver said his bus had gone careening into a low concrete wall with 20 passengers on board.

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He’s grateful nobody was killed.

Read more: Kelowna bus driver “beaten up pretty good,” assault that caused crash investigated

Lansing was rushed to hospital with several injuries, including a concussion.

Nearly two years later, Lansing said he suffers from a severe form of PTSD and still doesn’t remember what happened after the door opened and his attacker walked in.

“Later, I found out that I had been knocked out and had my head kicked in while I was unconscious and pulled out of the driver’s seat while the bus was rolling and the doors were opening until it crashed into the wall on the other side,” Lansing said.

In court on Thursday, 23-year-old Christian Habberjam pleaded guilty.

Lansing said there were seven cameras on the bus, and he was hoping to watch the surveillance tape for the first time and hear from eyewitnesses in court. He said he hasn’t been able to see the video because he could have been called to testify.

But because of the guilty plea, there won’t be a trial.

Read more: Kelowna man arrested after alleged assault of bus driver

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“What do I want to happen to him? Well, I’ve learned a lot of things about revenge fantasies,” Lansing said. “But fantasies are just that. I don’t care…I have no concern of him.

“Do I forgive him? Not at this point.”

Habberjam is now awaiting sentencing and is not in custody.

“For the last almost two years, he’s able to function normally and go to his job and his work and his trade and build a life, where mine’s been taken away,” Lansing said.

Lansing is speaking out because he wants people to be aware of the daily dangers that bus drivers potentially face.

Read more: Kelowna transit bus driver allegedly caught drunk driving after passenger calls police

Former bus driver Michial Vasko believes many drivers are dealing with a high level of anxiety on the job.

“There are times where the hair stands on the back of your neck,” he said.

In 2013, a passenger with hepatitis stabbed Vasko with a needle.

He had to take an antiviral to combat potential HIV transmission for 30 days.

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“Two months after I got back, a young man who had some anger issues started punching me in the face,” Vasko said, adding that he also had to take a knife away from a passenger who pulled the weapon after being told he could not drink on the bus.

“Those are things that have happened time and time again,” he said.

Read more: Kelowna bus driver’s dismissal for texting behind the wheel justified: arbitrator

Vasko said there was not enough mental health support offered to him as he’s been struggling over the last few years.

“The help was not there,” he said.

To help make things better for workers, Vasko fought to get camera surveillance on buses, as well as shields and doors for drivers.

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