The transit union for MiWay says one of its members, a female transit bus driver, fought off a man attempting to hijack a bus in Mississauga.
The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) said the incident occurred early Tuesday when a rider attempted to overtake the public transit bus.
“While the attempted hijacker wrestled with the female operator to take control of the bus, the operator fought him off and was able to bring the vehicle to a safe stop,” the union said.
The City of Mississauga also issued a statement and said the transit operator was able to safely stop the bus and Peel Regional Police were called.
Global News spoke to the driver, Denise Gibson, who said she was on overtime after completing an eight hour shift when the incident occurred.
Peel Regional Police told Global News they attended at around 12:30 a.m. in the area of Burnhamthorpe Road West and Erindale Station Road.
Police said during the investigation they learned the suspect approached a driver of a separate vehicle and began to damage the vehicle when he then boarded a transit bus and attempted to take control of it. However, he was stopped by the bus driver.
Gibson said the suspect told her he thought someone was after him and wanted to kill him and asked other passengers on the bus for help. She said she would drop him off somewhere but he told her no and to keep going.
“At this point he had started climbing onto the wheel well of the bus,” Gibson said. “He put his foot on the drivers’ Presto machine and sat there looking at me.”
“At that moment I’m thinking this is very odd, this is odd behaviour.”
She said she then offered to take him to a stop on Dundas Street so that he could switch buses to get to Kipling Station.
“He immediately flung the plexiglass divider open, grabbed the steering wheel and started to turn back onto Burnhamthorpe,” Gibson said.
“I pushed the covert button because at that point I am very worried. I was starting to get scared,” she said, adding that the covert button allows the transit personnel to be able to hear what’s going on.
She said he finally let go of the wheel and she offered another way to get the suspect to Kipling Station. But then, a transit rider rang the bell to get off.
Gibson said the man got very angry and said “who rang the bell” and no one answered. She told him the passengers need to get off the bus.
He replied “no one is getting off the bus,” she said. Then she said he told her to drive faster.
She said she stopped the bus to let the passengers off when he he tried to push her foot onto the accelerator and grabbed the wheel again to try to control the bus.
“At this point I was just shaking,” Gibson said. “I was terrified.”
She said he started jumping up and down on the bus, hitting the fare box and the drivers’ door and even took his shoe off to hit parts of the bus.
“I was just so scared. I thought for sure if I don’t do what he says, he’s going to start hurting me. So I did what he told me,” Gibson said.
At one point she said there was a cyclist on the road when the man tried to take hold of the wheel to turn towards the cyclist. “I held with all my might and braked just to avoid the man on the bike,” she said.
Eventually, she said she noticed a MiWay supervisor car pass by her.
“And I’m like thank god, someone is coming,” Gibson said fighting back tears.
She said the suspect tried to steer the bus into the supervisors car. She said she braked and cranked the bus door open when the man fled the bus.
“Maybe he thought he was a police officer, I’m not sure,” Gibson said.
Mississauga city officials said a MiWay supervisor attended the scene to help and the suspect got off the bus and drove off in the supervisor’s vehicle.
Gibson said the man jumped into the passenger side of the supervisor’s vehicle, then got into the drivers’ side of the vehicle and took off.
“All I saw was him turning the corner on Erindale Station Road, going northbound, squealing and the lights flashing and that was the last thing I saw of him,” Gibson said.
Peel police said the suspect damaged several poles as he fled the scene. However, no injuries were reported and there were no other vehicles damaged.
With GPS access from the transit system, they were able to track the location of the vehicle and officers arrested the man.
The suspect is facing charges of theft of a motor vehicle, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and mischief over $5,000.
“This is just another reminder of the dangers our transit professionals face daily in the line of duty,” said Jack Jackson, president of ATU Local 1572.
The incident comes as there have been several reports across the Greater Toronto Area of both successful carjackings and attempted carjackings.
— With files from Global News’ Shallima Maharaj