Authorities are calling a Derry bus driver a “selfless heroine” for evacuating her passengers and driving to secluded area after a terrorist placed a bomb on her vehicle. The quick-thinking driver ordered 10 riders off the bus and drove alone to a less populated area before leaving the bus and alerting police.
At 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday, a masked man, who said he was a member of the IRA, boarded the bus at a stop in the Ballymcgroarty area. Announcing that he had a bomb, the masked man placed a bag behind the driver’s seat and ordered her to drive to the Strand Road police station.
The Guardian newspaper reports that the driver managed to evacuate her passengers and then drove the bus alone for nearly a mile, stopping at a less-populated area. She then left the vehicle and alerted police. Forty homes, housing 70 families, were evacuated for nine hours until the scene was declared secure.
Bomb disposal experts arrived on the scene, and successfully disarmed what the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) described as “a viable” explosive fitted with a two-hour timer. Police believe that the action was carried out by a dissident republican group.
Derry City’s police chief, Supt. Stephen Cargin, strongly condemned the attack, calling it “reckless” and “mindless.”
“So many people had to be evacuated and were seriously inconvenienced for over nine hours,” he told the newspaper. “You have to question what these people were trying to achieve.”
Local politicians hailed the unnamed driver as a “heroine” for her brave actions.
SDLP councilor John Boyle told the newspaper, “This selfless heroine put the lives of her passengers and people living around ahead of herself.”
Northern Ireland Transport Minister Danny Kennedy praised the driver, saying that she “showed immense courage under very difficult circumstances.” He also noted that attacks on public transportation “impact the entire community who depend on buses and trains to . . . go about their daily business.”
Sinn Fein councilor Eric McGinley said that the group behind the bomb attack was “going against the will of the vast majority . . . [who] want to move forward without this type of disruption.”