A 27-year-old Moncton man has been charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault in connection with a Maritime Bus driver being stabbed in northwestern New Brunswick on Wednesday night.
Ryan Jason Hickey has been remanded in custody until a bail hearing on April 15 in Grand Falls provincial court.
The bus driver is in stable condition at the Hotel-Dieu hospital in Perth-Andover after being stabbed by a passenger.
The bus was pulling into the Maritime Bus station at the village's Shell gas bar and convenience store around 10 p.m. when the driver was attacked.
Mike Cassidy, the owner of Maritime Bus, told CBC News on Thursday morning that one of the seven passengers on board approached the driver from behind.
"The driver expressed in words that the blood, the blood was pouring," Cassidy said.
Passenger Justin Duguay says the intervention of another passenger, Mario Bernier, likely saved the driver's life.
"He was the only one that actually figured out what was going on up front. And apparently when he grabbed him, he gave a yell, he kind of stopped and stepped back. So that's probably the only thing that stopped him from stabbing him another dozen times," said Duguay, who awoke to the confusion.
"I doubt that if he hadn't jumped up, you know, it took me at least five minutes to figure out what was going on, and the bus driver probably wouldn't have made it," he said.
The bus slammed into a small shed, but the driver, Don Jaillet, who is from Bouctouche, managed to safely bring it to a complete stop. None of the other passengers were injured.
Elsie Evans, who was working in the convenience store, initially thought the bus had just crashed. Then she saw the driver walking toward the store, covered in blood.
He was bleeding from "the arm and the chest, for sure," said Evans. She froze at first, then ran inside to call 911.
Her boyfriend, Jamie Turner, who was there having a coffee and helping to take out the garbage, had just completed a First Aid and CPR course a few weeks ago.
"I made him lay right down on the floor here and tried to find out where the blood was coming from and I shut it off with my hand to slow the blood down," recalled Turner. "Everything happened so fast."
'There is nothing, at this particular point, that would suggest there was any reason for the person to become influenced even to have this attack. I mean there's not an incident on board that we know right now.' —Mike Cassidy, Maritime Bus
Two RCMP officers, who happened to be in the same parking lot, were on the scene immediately.
"They were approached by a passenger from the bus who advised them that the bus driver had been attacked," said Cpl. Chantal Farrah.
"At the scene within minutes, police arrested a 27-year-old man from Moncton."
The man was taken to the hospital in Grand Falls for treatment and later transferred to Restigouche Hospital Centre, Farrah said.
He was expected to make a court appearance on Thursday.
The investigation is continuing.
Meanwhile, the driver underwent emergency surgery at the Hotel-Dieu hospital in Perth-Andover, where his family was able to join him, according to the bus company owner.
"We've gone from critical condition last night to stable condition this morning," said Cassidy.
"My driver is going to be fine, he believes."
The driver's wife went to the Shell convenience store on Thursday to thank Jamie Turner for having helped with First Aid until the ambulance arrived.
"It was real hard," said Turner. "'Thank you.' That's all she could say."
"All I could do was hug her and say 'I did what I could do.'"
'Something was off'
Cassidy said it's unclear what may have prompted the attack.
"There is nothing, at this particular point, that would suggest there was any reason for the person to become influenced even to have this attack. I mean there's not an incident on board that we know right now," he said.
Passenger Jasmine Jacobs said she had spoken to the suspect earlier and "knew something was off."
"He told me that he was hungry and he was dying and all this other stuff, like he just didn’t feel good. And then he was all happy like a second later. And then he went into the store and bought a bunch of food and then we came on the bus and that was our last stop and then the next stop was when it happened," she said.
The suspect "kept pacing back and forth on the bus, asking when we’re going to stop, if we’re going to different places and eventually he got up one last time and he was having a conversation with the bus driver and then all of a sudden something set him off and he just started punching the bus driver and attacking him."
Jacobs didn't see any weapon, but there was blood "all over," she said.
Some passengers jumped out of the windows, but she was too short and had to walk through the blood, down the steps.
"I’m just thankful. Like, it could have gone so much more wrong," said Jacobs.
"Like if, say we weren’t turning into something and we were still on the highway driving 120 [km/h]
, it could have been way worse if he decided to attack him then."
Security under review
Cassidy said the attack has him considering changes to improve security.
"Something I'm going to have to investigate because the safety of our passengers, the safety of our drivers, the safety of our staff and terminals — you know, we have to be looking at this," he said.
"Never has this happened in our region. This is something we read about, this is something we hear about. Like I guess I have to ask the question — where are we today? And how much security — I don't know if it's just the bus. Where is the security anywhere? I just haven't gone that far I'm just so happy that my driver is going to be OK."
The bus was en route to Rivière-du-Loup, Que., from Moncton. The six other passengers in the bus were housed at a Perth-Andover hotel overnight and were expected to be picked up by another bus on Thursday.
But their luggage was still on the bus, which had been taken to a garage in Grand Falls for forensics testing by the RCMP.