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Driver Who Thwarted Hijacking Says He’s No Hero

August 5, 1991

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) _ A Greyhound bus driver who disarmed and shot a would-be hijacker said Monday he’s no hero. He said he just did it out of fear he and his passengers would be killed.

After the suspect commandeered his bus and robbed his passengers, Armando Helliger wrestled the gun away and shot the man.

Dino Sacco, 33, of New York City, was hospitalized in fair condition with a gunshot wound in the abdomen. He’s been charged with armed robbery, kidnapping and attempted murder, said Union County Prosecutor Andrew K. Ruotolo.

No charges will be filed against the driver, Ruotolo said.

″I don’t think of myself as a hero,″ Helliger, 29, of New York City, told reporters. ″I was scared.″

Helliger, who has worked for Greyhound since June 6, said he had never held a gun, but fear drove him to act.

″He was threatening to kill us,″ Helliger said. ″He said, ’You’ll be the first to go, Mr. Driver.‴

But others, including passenger Reggie Lingad, said Helliger was a hero because he ″risked his life for everybody on the bus.″

Helliger was driving the bus from New York City to Atlantic City on Sunday when Sacco, wearing a wig, glasses and a handkerchief over his face, stood up and announced he was hijacking the bus to New York City’s Brooklyn borough, officials and witnesses said.

Sacco ordered Helliger to turn the bus around and told a passenger to collect money and identification cards from others, Greyhound spokesman William Kula said.

″When he pulled out that gun and started collecting the money, the bus driver just explained what was going on and told us to be calm,″ passenger Dorothy Kallman said.

Sacco taunted and threatened the passengers. Many of them were casino- bound, said passenger Shirley Sudler.

″He said, ’I know you’ve got fifties and hundreds. Don’t hold out on me or I’ll start shooting,‴ Sudler said.

When Sacco reached to take the driver’s identification from an overhead rack, Helliger slammed on the brakes and Sacco lost his balance. Helliger jumped on Sacco him as he tumbled down the bus stairwell, Kula said.

The two toppled out of the bus onto the shoulder of the Garden State Parkway, fighting for the gun. One passenger brought the bus to a stop and another jumped out and helped Helliger struggle with Sacco, Kula said.

Helliger grabbed the gun and fired three shots, hitting Sacco once, Kula said.

″Clearly the driver acted appropriately in protecting the safety of his passengers,″ Kula said. ″We’re pleased with his ability to act with authority and act with such cool composure in such a traumatic situation.″

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