BROOKLYN (PIX11) — An MTA bus driver was punched then doused with lighter fluid by a passenger in Brooklyn on Saturday, police said.
The incident occurred after the 57-year-old bus driver announced that a B44 bus was going out of service and passengers needed to exit the bus around 6 p.m., according to the NYPD.
The bus driver noticed the suspect wasn’t getting off the bus and approached him to offer assistance, police said. Suddenly, the assailant punched the driver several times and poured lighter fluid onto the victim before running off the bus, police said.
Fortunately, the suspect did not ignite the highly flammable material. But the incident, following last week’s attack on a train conductor, is the latest in a string of attacks that have ratted MTA workers, including Lenny, a fellow M44 bus route operator.
Lenny said he is terribly worried following this latest attack.
“Sometimes we are not safe—most of the time. We are not safe. It depends on the passengers. Yes! Of course. Everybody. Not to only me, everybody,” Lenny said.
A spokesperson for the bus operators, TWU Local 100, when comparing the same four-month period of January to April between this year, and last year, there’s a 17% increase in the number of assaults on bus operators and a 32% increase in the number of spitting incidents.
TWU officer Alexander Kemp says more must be done to protect operators while they’re behind the wheel.
“The driver is extremely shaken up. There’s no nature of employment that suggest that someone should throw lighter fluid on you. And what is the consequence of that if one match hit that gentleman? How does he wake up? How does he rectify that with this family,” said Alexander Kemp.
“That’s really, really upsetting – and very sad. Tragic. Crime needs to be addressed. And it’s becoming a serious problem,” said passenger Gwenn Woods.
“Targeting a bus operator with violence is beyond outrageous because attacks on public servants are attacks on all of us. When the NYPD catches this unhinged criminal—and they will—prosecutors should ensure he faces maximum consequences under the law,” said NYC Transit SVP of Buses Frank Annicaro.
First responders transported the victim to a hospital in what authorities described as stable condition.
Submit tips to police by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477), visiting crimestoppers.nypdonline.org, downloading the NYPD Crime Stoppers mobile app, or texting 274637 (CRIMES) then entering TIP577. Spanish-speaking callers are asked to dial 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).