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Woman attacked at West Van bus stop raises concerns about transit safety

She questions why a woman who berated the driver was allowed on the bus by transit security
West Vancouver resident Karin Ericson said she was attacked from behind after trying to support the driver by filming a group of belligerent passengers. | Nick Laba / North Shore News

Real estate agent Karin Ericson has had a more complicated work week than usual. Battling concussion symptoms, she's had to get her daughter Cassidy to drive her to professional and medical appointments, which Ericson has navigated with stark bruising on her face and neck.

Ericson, a West Vancouver resident, says she received those injuries when another woman punched her from behind after she got off the bus at Park Royal, sending Ericson hurdling toward the ground and hitting her face on the pavement.

Soon after, the alleged attacker was arrested by West Vancouver police at around 1 a.m. Sunday, July 23. According to police, the suspect is a 22-year-old woman from West Vancouver. She was subsequently released with conditions. Sgt. Mark McClean said his detachment is recommending charges of assault causing bodily harm.

But instead of the spotlight being on what happened to Ericson, she said she wants people to focus on broader safety issues that played a role in leading to the attack.

Bus driver tried to refuse service to ‘belligerent’ passenger

Complications first arose when a group started to board a bus on West Georgia Street downtown. As seen in video shared with the North Shore News, a woman in the group became angry during an altercation with the bus driver.

The woman wanted to bring her dog on the bus, stating that it was her service dog. But the driver wasn’t continuing the trip with her onboard. The woman told the bus driver that he’s an idiot and will lose his job. Ericson said the driver called security, asking for the group to be removed. A little later, several transit officers arrived.

After a discussion, one of the transit security officers remained on the bus, and the trip continued. During this time, Ericson – who was returning home after seeing the fireworks with friends – said she started filming with her phone in case the bus driver needed support later in defending himself.

As she filmed, Ericson said another woman from the group became aggressive toward her, telling her not to video them, and pushing Ericson’s phone away.

When the bus arrived at Park Royal, “we got off and I was probably 10 steps away from the bus and from nowhere … [I was] just completely blindsided, hit over the head and thrown onto the street from the curb side, face down,” Ericson said. “There was blood everywhere. My face was on fire. And I turned around to see two girls running away.”

Ericson said she ran up to a group of transit security officers standing at the bus stop, and pointed out the fleeing women to them. Security apprehended the fleeing women, Ericson said, and two witnesses pointed out the one who attacked Ericson, the one who was angry at Ericson for filming.

Police were called to the scene and arrived shortly after. Firefighters also attended, who treated Ericson’s injuries.

Riders can be fined for not obeying refusal of access orders: TransLink policy

Now, as she continues to try and meet her work commitments – addled by concussion symptoms as well as sore and conspicuous bruising – Ericson is questioning why this situation unfolded in the first place. Why was the woman who berated the bus driver ever allowed on?

According to TransLink policy, drivers can refuse service to passengers who contravene TransLink’s rules about pets, which require pets to be stowed in small carriers. Also, riders can be issued a fine for failing to obey a refusal of access, an order to leave or a non-entry order.

West Vancouver Transit (formerly Blue Bus) said it has “carefully” looked into the incident.

“The event was handled swiftly and appropriately,” a spokesperson said. “Transit security rode the bus from downtown to Park Royal because of an aggressive passenger with a dog who was belligerent toward the driver and who refused to get off the bus before leaving the stop downtown.”

TransLink – which oversees transit security and security policy for the West Van service – said the driver was consulted, and agreed to allow the other woman to bring her dog on the bus. 

Transit security can use discretion regarding its pet policy, a TransLink spokesperson said.

In any case, Ericson said that drivers should be able to refuse service if passengers are anything but respectful.

“We’re not allowed to enter planes if we’re aggressive or abusive. We’re not allowed to be in retail establishments … so why on earth do bus drivers have to put up with this?

“They have no idea who they’re going to have come onto their buses, and how do they protect themselves and the public if they don’t have the right to make some calls?”

Update (Aug. 1, 2 p.m.): This article has been updated with comment from TransLink.

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