Attacker chokes Surrey bus driver

'Random act of violence' by passenger on King George Boulevard in Newton caught on video.

A Coast Mountain Bus Driver is unhurt after a passenger in Surrey tried to choke him Saturday morning.

The assault happened at King George Boulevard near 76 Avenue on the southbound 321 bus from Surrey Central station to White Rock.

The driver had asked the passenger, who boarded and was standing too close to the windshield, to move back.

Gavin Davies, vice-president of local 111 of the Canadian Auto Workers union, said the young man complied without objection but at a later stop grabbed the driver “with both hands around the throat and started choking him.”

The driver was in complete shock and didn’t fight back, but his assailant suddenly let go and bolted off the bus.

Surrey RCMP tried to find the suspect using a dog but were unsuccessful.

Video surveillance was in use on the bus and the recording has been retrieved and will be used by Mounties in their investigation. About 10 other people were on the bus.

RCMP spokesman Drew Granger said the suspect is described as a white male age 18-20, five-foot-10, with  short, dark hair. He was wearing a black jacket over a hoodie and blue jeans.

Davies said although there was no physical injury to the driver, such assaults inflict ongoing mental trauma.

“As a driver who has been assaulted three times, I can tell you the big thing that keeps playing on your mind is ‘Is this guy going to get back on my bus again,'” he said. “It causes apprehension, lack of sleep and anxiety.”

It was the third driver assault in Surrey so far this year.

In the two previous incidents, drivers were spat upon. In one of them, the female assailant first threatened to stab the driver with a dirty needle she claimed to have.

None of the Surrey incidents to date were triggered by drivers challenging passengers over fare evasion, he said, calling them “random acts of violence” that seem more linked to mental health or addiction.

Bus drivers were assaulted 146 times last year in Metro Vancouver, a 21 per cent increase from 2010.

A total of eight driver assaults have been recorded in the region so far this year.

TransLink has considered installing barriers to protect drivers from passengers, but so far the drivers – who prefer unobstructed interaction with the public – have voted against installing them.

Davies said that decision of the union membership could be reviewed if driver assaults continue to climb.

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