NEWTON â€” A Surrey bus driver suffered a broken nose after being punched in the face by a passenger Wednesday evening in Newton.
Melinda Bige, who was a passenger on the 341 Guilford/Langley Centre bus said the incident occurred around 8 p.m. right before arriving at the 144th Street and 72nd Avenue bus stop.
She said the assailant was smoking a cigarette at Newton Exchange when he got on the bus, sitting close to the front. He then pulled the cord for the stop at 144th Street and walked towards the front of the bus.
â€œAll of a sudden, the bus jolted and hit the median and all I saw was the guy yelling â€˜Fâ€” youâ€™ at the bus driver,â€ Bige said. â€œThe guy clocked him in the nose and the bus hit the median.â€
According to Bige, the bus stopped as soon as the driver was hit and the man fled the scene with a shorter, blond woman.
Bige said she handed the bus driver some tissue while the RCMP was called and while she was helping the him, he mentioned that the assailant had said â€œyou trying to be a tough guy in front of my girl?â€ and then punched him in the nose.
The suspect is described as a tall, muscular Caucasian male in his mid-twenties to late-thirties. He has short, bleached hair and a large tattoo on the back of his neck. He was last seen wearing jeans and a black leather jacket with a grey or white hoodie.
Canadian Auto workers Union President Nathan Woods said that the driver is home from hospital and is going to be OK.
Woods said most violence against transit operators occur in the afternoon to evening.
â€œTypically, itâ€™s between two oâ€™clock in the afternoon and eight oâ€™clock at night and that could be anywhere, West Broadway or Surrey.â€
WorkSafeBC statistics show that the Transportation and Related Services subsector had 358 reported incidents of acts of violence and force claims from 2009 – 2013.
In that period, acts of violence against transit drivers resulting in lost time consisted of 171 claims.
The union is looking at installing safety barriers as one option to help reduce violent assaults against their operators. Another is supporting Bill C-533, a change to the Criminal Code that eliminates soft sentences for people who assault bus drivers.
Until then, Woods is worried it’s just a matter of time before something even worse results from an assault like this.
â€œWhat about the transit operator whoâ€™s assaulted when the bus is moving? Everyone on the bus, every bystander on the road, every motorist, it creates such a risk,â€ he said.
â€œAt that point, the collateral damage would be far greater than just a transit operator punched in the nose.â€
Police are still searching for the suspect.