City investigating altercation between ETS driver, passenger caught on video
Instagram post says scuffle started with passenger's refusal to wear mask
The City of Edmonton has launched an investigation after a video was posted to social media showing a physical altercation between an Edmonton Transit Service bus driver and a passenger.
A city official confirmed Friday that the scuffle — between a male driver wearing a mask and a female passenger not wearing a mask — was recorded Tuesday by another passenger on the stopped ETS bus. The city official did not specify which route the bus was on.
The video was posted on Instagram with a caption that said the incident started over the passenger's unruly behaviour and refusal to wear a mask.
The city has not confirmed that that the incident was related to a passenger's refusal to wear a mask.
As of Friday afternoon, the 60-second video had more than 4,300 likes on Instagram.
It shows the driver throwing a grey bag out the back doors of the bus before the woman grabs him by the jacket with one hand and pushes her other hand into his face.
She then walks to the rear of the bus and picks up some other belongings and heads to the front door, with the bus driver following her.
When the woman reaches over a plexiglass barrier into the driver's seat area, the driver shoves her out the door.
She tries to get back in three more times and can be heard challenging the driver to hit her. Each time she steps inside the bus, the driver pushes her out.
"You're dead," the woman tells the driver at one point. He pushes her out a final time as the doors close, briefly trapping her arm. The video captures laughter from other passengers.
Standing outside, the woman appears to kick at the bus before the driver pulls away.
Carrie Hotton-MacDonald, director of business integration and workforce development with the City of Edmonton, said the incident will be investigated fully.
"Our priority is to investigate what happened and to determine if any wrongdoing occurred," Hotton-MacDonald said in an emailed statement.
She said the city is concerned about safety and security for all involved.
"ETS staff and customers are all accountable for their actions when on transit property. In this particular case, we are investigating the circumstances surrounding this matter and will determine next steps, as appropriate," she said.
"Corrective action may be taken for an operator as deemed based on the findings of the investigation. A customer can also be banned for a period of time from ETS property, if their actions warrant it."
Operators are trained to de-escalate incidents and transit peace officers or other emergency personnel can be called in if needed, she said.
Steve Bradshaw, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569, said the union will stand behind the driver.
"This operator's actions were taken to protect the health and wellness of everyone onboard, his passengers and himself," he said. "We do not promote operators, or any members, getting into confrontations with the public. We don't want that."
The video has been flooded with comments, many in support of the driver, something Bradshaw said he was also hearing.
Bradshaw said the risks of the pandemic are wearing on drivers.
"The operator clearly has a family to go home to. He wants to be sure he's not carrying bugs home to his family," he said.
He said some drivers are nervous while others are "downright frightened."
The ATU, which operates throughout the U.S. and Canada has lost nearly 100 members to COVID-19.