Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Arsonist Caught on TTC Bus Cameras

A 28-year-old man has been arrested in connection to the arson of a TTC bus, which was caught on security video. The video was released to the public yesterday afternoon, and its clear, graphic images helped lead police to the suspect, said Const. Tony Vella.

Steven Edwards, 28, faces numerous assault, arson, and weapons charges. He was arrested by officers in 14 Division last night, on completely unrelated property offences.

Officers identified him from the images and video released through the TTC security camera. He was taken to 53 Division this morning, and charged for the bus arson.

The TTC bus erupted in fire early Wednesday morning after a man poured a large can of a combustible liquid on the back seats and lit them with a barbecue lighter.

Frantic passengers fled the scene, as the new $750,000 hybrid bus burst into flames at a stop outside The Bay store at Yonge and Bloor Sts., just after 2:30 a.m.

The entire act was caught on a surveillance camera at the front of the bus. The video shows the man pulling a large red can from his backpack. He pulls off the cap and pours the liquid all over the seats, shaking out every drop.

After he lights the fluid, the flames erupt so quickly he is almost caught in them. As smoke fills the bus, he grabs his backpack and jacket, goes to leave, then stops. He looks into his empty knapsack, then glances back, as though something was forgotten. A white object is seen on the floor behind him. Then he flees.

Before lighting the bus on fire, police say, the man punched a woman in the face for refusing to give him a cigarette at a bus stop. She suffered a bloody nose.

The woman did not know Edwards, police say.

When the victim and other passengers confronted him, the man got on the bus and set it on fire.

The suspect fled the scene and hopped in a Beck taxi at Gloucester St. and Yonge St.

Deanna Vexler was getting off the southbound bus on the other side of Yonge St., when a man charged past her, clutching his backpack, as three men chased after him.

Someone screamed: "Somebody catch him! He just set the bus on fire!"

People stood around the bus, watching it burn, Vexler said. Everyone had got off the bus safely.

Another person yelled, "Everyone get away from the bus!"

The crowd scurried around - scared the burning bus might explode, but unable to look away.

"I was shocked that it didn't explode," Vexler said, adding she was relieved no one was caught in it.

Firefighters quickly extinguished the fire and no injuries were reported. The bus, however, is a write-off, said TTC spokesman Brad Ross.

Every TTC bus (1727 in total) is equipped with four cameras. Images are downloaded when incidents of assault occur, said Danny Nicholson, a spokesperson for the TTC. The $17 million project to outfit buses and streetcars with cameras began in 2006.