Monday, August 04, 2008

Greyhound Considering Extra Security Measures after Beheading Incident

OTTAWA -- A day after a man was beheaded in a gruesome attack on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba, Eric Wesley, a spokesman for the company, said it would be next to impossible to have airport-style safety precautions - like metal detectors - on rural bus routes.

"The rural nature of our network doesn't allow us to have airport-style security," he said. "It doesn't make it practical for us to do that."

The Greyhound spokesman said the company already had been working with Transport Canada to implement extra security measures for intercity buses.

That was before the horrific incident Wednesday night that saw a passenger on a bus travelling near Portage la Prairie, Man., stab and behead another man in an apparently random attack.

A suspect was arrested by police.

The idea of putting surveillance cameras on the buses is a possibility Greyhound will continue to look at, the spokesman said.

Greyhound drivers, although they travel alone, are trained to identify potentially violent or suspicious passengers and call police as soon as possible.

Incidents involving violent passengers usually involve drug- or alcohol-fuelled behaviour, Mr. Wesley said.

"Our drivers are trained to provide the safest travel for all our passengers and every time an incident occurs they know to pull the bus over and call 911," he said.

RCMP Sgt. Steve Colwell had high praise Thursday for the driver and remaining passengers on the bus.

"The way they reacted was extraordinary," Sgt. Colwell said.

"They were very brave. They reacted swiftly, calmly in exiting the bus and as a result, nobody else was injured."

There are also security systems on buses that enable drivers to contact the Greyhound operations office quickly.

Jim Higgs, a local president of the union that represents Greyhound bus drivers, said concealed weapons pose a problem for drivers.

"Without security measures like at an airport, there is no way in the world that we could've prevented this," he said from Calgary.

"When someone is carrying a concealed weapon, there is not much you can do."

Greyhound drivers have complained about personal safety issues in the past - but never about an incident like this one, Mr. Higgs said.

"The TV was probably on. People were listening to the video being played. It would've been a fairly quiet and relaxed atmosphere," he said. "There is no way the passengers or the driver would've expected something like this to happen. This is the scary part of it all."

Meanwhile, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day expressed his shock about the "horrific" attack, but cautioned Canadians to remember that this was an isolated incident.

"Let's keep in mind that this as bizarre and tragic as it is, is extremely rare," he told reporters in Levis, Que., on Thursday.

"Certainly the perfect nature of it is probably one of a kind in Canadian history."

Even so, Mr. Day said his department will review possible security measures.

He added that a nationwide knife-registry -- supposedly the weapon supposedly used in the incident -- was unlikely.

"We have legal provisions in place now to deal with crimes . . . and I wouldn't even want to open up a discussion about possibly registering the millions of knives dealing with kitchen purposes alone let alone hunting purposes."

FACTBOX: Violent incidents involving buses

Feb. 17, 2007 - A Greyhound bus was driving through Lloydminster, Alta., when someone threw something at the bus carrying 52 passengers. The bus driver pulled over and got out of the bus, and was then attacked by a group of men. RCMP charged six men with assault.

Dec. 23, 2000 - A man grabs the wheel of a Greyhound bus travelling near Thunder Bay, Ont., causing the bus to swerve and land in a ditch. All 32 passengers aboard were injured, and a 74-year-old woman later died of her injuries.

March 7, 2000 - A pregnant woman was attacked on a Greyhound bus travelling through London, Ont. Police said she did not know her attacker. The woman suffered injuries to her arms.

April 7, 1989 - A gunman of Lebanese descent hijacked a Greyhound bus en route to New York and forced it to drive to the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. The man claimed to be a member of the Lebanese Liberation Front and demanded that Syrian forces withdraw from Lebanon. The incident ended peacefully.