A bus driver is suffering from a broken nose after he was assaulted in Surrey Wednesday night.
“It was unprovoked and it was vicious,” said Nathan Woods, president of Unifor local 111, the union representing Coast Mountain Bus drivers.
The attack happened after a man and woman boarded a route 341 bus headed to Guildford around 8 p.m.
Transit Police said the man started challenging the operator verbally, but the driver did not respond. As the bus turned left at the corner of 72nd Avenue and 144th Street, the man allegedly stood up and punched the driver in the face.
Bleeding profusely, the driver stopped the bus, opened the door, and the pair jumped out.
The driver was taken to Surrey Memorial Hospital after the incident and spent the night there under observation.
“By all accounts, the transit operator is going to be out for quite a while. There’s a broken nose and they’re concerned about shattered cheeks,” Woods added.
The bus was not equipped with video surveillance cameras but Transit Police are canvassing the area for other sources of video and a number of witnesses provided detailed descriptions of the pair.
The suspect is described as a blond, clean shaven, white male in his mid-20s to early 30s with a very large build. He stands approximately 6-2 to 6-5 tall, with muscular, broad shoulders and a large tattoo on the back of his neck.
He was wearing a black leather jacket with a grey or white hoodie underneath, jeans and light-coloured runners.
His girlfriend is described as a white woman in her early 20s with blond hair.
Shannon Stewart, a bus driver for more than 10 years, said these recent incidents have many drivers coming into work afraid.
“Next week, I’ll be doing the 341 [bus route], a girlfriend of mine was doing the 341 last night and she said, ‘Oh my god I was there a couple hours before that happened,’ and it could have happened to her,” she said.
Having been threatened multiple times, she would like to see working cameras in all transit busses and tougher penalties for people who assault others.
However, she stopped short at calling for plexiglass barriers used in many cities to protect drives.
“Barriers would work but I don’t want the barriers because actually most of the people we deal with on a daily basis are good people and I don’t want to lose that interaction,” she said.
The union says around 200 buses in the system do not have cameras, nor do any of the community shuttles.
The incident is the latest in a string of attacks on bus drivers this year, which has seen a 15 per cent increase over last year, according to the union.
Two young women were charged earlier in March after a female driver’s hair was allegedly pulled right out of her head in Vancouver.
In February, a man is accused of punching a driver repeatedly at Surrey Central, stealing his sunglasses and uttering racial slurs.
“There were 52 incidents that the police investigated [in 2014]. Of that, there were over 20 assaults,” he said, adding there have been six more in the last two weeks.
The attacks have spurred the union to increase reward for information leading to convictions in bus driver assaults to $15,000.