Tue | May 21, 2019

Cool head Horace saves the day!

Published:Friday | February 8, 2019 | 10:03 AM

Jamaica Urban Transport Company (JUTC) bus driver Horace Bolton is being commended for his expert driving skills and calm amid yesterday’s harrowing morning ride for commuters en route to the city streets from Stony Hill.

Letter writer Allan Brooks explained that chaos erupted aboard the overcrowded No. 52 bus as passengers scrambled to escape the acrid smoke billowing from the engine as it sped down Long Lane, just below Red Gal Ring.

“While the JUTC appears to be struggling with resource constraints, the conscientiousness of its workers as exemplified by driver Horace Bolton is commendable. He kept his nerve during the pandemonium, brought the vehicle safely to a halt along the busy thoroughfare, calmed the terrified passengers and was almost apologetic for the inconvenience caused,” passenger Allan Brooks noted in a letter to the editor.

Brooks, who claimed to have been seated directly behind the driver, said shouts of “Fire!”, supplications for divine intervention, and high-pitched screams mingled with loud expletives filled the air when the more than 90 passengers aboard the 43-seater bus realised that despite their best efforts, the emergency exits could not be opened.

“In an attempt to escape death by fire or asphyxiation,” the passengers “rushed the only route to safety, leaping over those confined to the seats, diving through the windows wide enough for even a painful exit, and cascading over those not agile enough to keep up with the mad rush,” Brooks wrote.

PANICKED PASSENGERS

Hemmed in by the throng, he admits to being unnerved like never before.

“The press of the panicked passengers confined me to that vantage point as the overwhelmed driver fought to control the bus while trying to fend off the terrified bodies trying for the door to his immediate left. It was chaotic, frightening, and almost unbelievable. Personally, for the first time in my relatively long life, I tasted the bile of fear and anguish at the back of my throat. I, too, felt that the end was near.”

Through it all, the JUTC employee was the only person aboard the bus in control of his emotions, according to Brooks.

He recalls: “When the vehicle eventually came to a halt and we scrambled to the roadside, the driver, Horace Bolton, explained that the incident was more smoke than fire, but that in addition to the possibility of the vehicle exploding into flames, there was also the real danger of the vehicle crashing out of control as he tried to fend off and calm the panicked passengers.”

“JUTC bus, GT0023, licensed number PG 9453, was a death trap,” wrote Brooks. “At the time of the incident, it was carrying nearly 100 passengers.”

Meanwhile, Neville Francis, general manager of the Rockfort depot, said the “matter would be investigated and addressed urgently”.

Francis indicated that he was aware of the incident and had ordered a report from the maintenance manager. He further admitted that although there were challenges, there were minimum standards that ought to be observed, which include regular maintenance and inspection before units are deemed roadworthy and that defective vehicles “should not leave the depot”.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com