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Same assailant suspected in Surrey, Aldergrove bus attacks

Video links Tuesday stabbing of passenger with Saturday choking of driver

A young man who tried to choke a bus driver in Surrey Saturday morning is now also suspected in the stabbing of a bus passenger in Aldergrove.

The union that represents TransLink bus drivers is issuing a public warning about the assailant and also wants an image from a surveillance video recording released.

"We don't want to sit around and wait for this guy to strike again," said Gavin Davies, vice-president of Canadian Auto Workers local 111.

He said TransLink managers and the RCMP have viewed the video recordings from both buses and believe the same man is responsible.

The union is urging passengers to be aware of their surroundings and to report any odd behaviour to the driver or call 911.

"From what I understand, this individual acted quite strangely before and during both incidents," Davies said.

A bulletin is being sent out to drivers, he added.

The stabbing happened 6 p.m. Tuesday near Aldergrove Centre Mall at 272 Street and Fraser Highway.

A man stepping off the bus was stabbed by a suspect police say is still at large.

The victim was airlifted to hospital but is expected to be released today.

The choking incident in Surrey happened at King George Boulevard near 76 Avenue on a southbound 321 bus to White Rock.

The driver had asked a young man who was standing too close to the windshield to step a safe distance back. He complied but later grabbed the driver with both hands and began choking him. He fled after letting go and the driver was not hurt.

RCMP in Langley confirmed the same man is a suspect in both incidents.

Cpl. Drew Granger said the Surrey 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.