After suffering a brutal attack at the hands of a student two months ago, bus driver Anthonio Rowe is calling on the Transport Board to make greater efforts to protect its operators.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY Wednesday morning, the 21-year veteran contended that the Transport Board needed to move beyond cameras on their buses and put up protective barriers for operators, who can be easy targets for the sometimes frustrated commuters.
“They put cameras in the bus and they [passengers] still vandalizing the bus, so it seems like they forget or don’t care that the cameras are there. There are no signs letting the travelling public know that cameras are on
“We have been asking for the cages for years. The small Hinos [make of the bus] have a door and I guess you can’t put a cage because the engine is in the way. However, the big buses can get a cage because it has no engine covers, just a fare box. You need to find a way to get it done. How come in other countries they could get it done? Do you know how much people does stand up behind a bus driver? One of them could easily come up and stab that driver,” Rowe stated.
The experienced driver recounted the harrowing experience, which took place at Oistin’s Hill, Christ Church last October. He revealed that in an unprovoked attack, the male student struck him on the head and hand with a stick, causing lacerations to his head.
“When I was going down the hill the bell rang again. I stopped opposite the bus pole that is on my right hand, which is to Silver Hill side, and I opened the back door only. While my hands were on the steering . . . I looked in the rear view mirror and saw this guy from all in the back walking towards me . . . . Next minute I felt this lash on the top of my head. For some reason my left hand happen to go up to my head [in a defensive position] and block the other lash, which means I would have had two cuts in my head,” Rowe recalled.
He contended that the incident could have easily escalated into a mass casualty situation, had he not have the presence of mind to engage the handbrake, ensuring that the bus, filled with students, did not roll down the hill.
“At that time I didn’t even put the handbrake yet. Now look at the danger of all this. Suppose I had slipped into a little bit of unconsciousness? Even a policeman said that the bus would have gone straight down Oistin’s Hill with the rest of those school children on the bus,” he said.
However, even after the physical scars have healed, Rowe continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress and anxiety attacks, which is taking a toll on his life and career. He explained that even the sight of a passenger approaching the driver’s door from the back can trigger such an attack, and he now fears that he may have to consider giving up the job that he loves.
“I am not really settled as yet because I went back out to work and I picked up a young lady in Six Roads . . . . She stopped to get off at Springer Memorial School but she rang the bell late so I stopped at the bus stop lower down and when I pulled into the lay-by, the next minute she right alongside me and that triggered me off [anxiety attack]. I got frightened, that jumped me when she ended up right alongside me. The next day my wife was able to witnessed it for the first time as I got a second anxiety attack when I was about to go to work,” an emotional Rowe stated.
“I can’t be behind a steering wheel and that is happening. Suppose I am in motion and that is coming on? It is a very damn frightening feeling. My counsellor said that is not going to go away just like that because it was not an expected incident. So I need to maybe come off the road for a while. I don’t want to stop driving because I love the idea of driving bus, but I may have to do that; even the counsellor is saying the same thing. So that is something I may now need to discuss with them [Transport Board],” he added.