Winnipeg Transit is investigating after a bus driver allegedly ignored an unconscious Indigenous man lying on the floor as he continued picking up passengers.
“People were just supposed to step over him,” said an upset Sandra Lee Alward after riding the No. 18 bus.
Alward, a nurse, said the disturbing incident occurred June 28. She said she boarded the bus and spotted the man she estimated to be in his late 20s lying on the floor near the back.
“His shirt was missing and there was a $5 bill half-way sticking out of his back pocket. I didn’t smell any liquor.”
Alward says she couldn’t believe the driver carried on like no one was in trouble.
“I just went straight back there to see how he was and why he was on the ground. I didn’t touch him because the bus kept moving,” she said.
“He had shallow and rapid breathing – he wasn’t sleeping. There was something wrong with him.”
A spokesperson for Winnipeg Transit said Tuesday it was investigating the incident described by APTN.
“Winnipeg Transit takes these matters very seriously and is currently investigating the incident,” said spokesperson Alissa Clark in an email.
This video obtained by APTN shows the bus continued on its route while a man lay unconscious on the floor.
Alward said she called 9-1-1 for help.
“I had to tell the bus driver to stop. He said that everything was OK, that he had already called his supervisor,” she said.
“I told him everything wasn’t OK, and that I was on the phone with 9-1-1 right there and then. And that he needed to stop the bus so the ambulance could come and get this guy.”
James Favel, co-founder of Winnipeg’s Bear Clan Patrol, which helps the city’s poor and vulnerable, was outraged to hear Alward’s account.
“That’s absurd that Transit would value its schedule over a person’s life,” he said Tuesday.
“They need some sensitivity training or something.”
Favel confirmed Bear Clan had been in talks with the drivers’ union – Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 – to supply bus passes and training to his members to be public ambassadors onboard. But he said Transit officials rejected the proposed pilot project.
Alward said the incident has her fearing for her own welfare because she, too, is an Indigenous person.
“What if I fell for whatever reason and they said, ‘Oh, it’s just a drunk Indian that fell over.’”
She said she’s still wondering why the driver didn’t respond more positively.
“He had a really cavalier attitude. When the bus stopped a woman came back there and she thanked me. She said she was really nervous about everything and that man had been on the floor like that since she got on.”
To top it off, she said the driver complained about the delay.
“He said something about being late and I said, ‘No, this is more important than you being late for your route.’”
Alward said a fire truck arrived within minutes followed by an ambulance. She said she left when first responders started attending to the man.
“I was too upset and I had to leave,” she said.