Driver Critically Injured in Attack on Bus on Greyhound Route
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ The driver of a Southeastern Trailways bus taking a Greyhound route was shot and critically wounded, prompting strike-plagued Greyhound on Sunday to rule out contract talks until a week has passed without gunfire.
″It’s an open-and-shut case of terrorism,″ said Fred G. Currey, chairman and chief executive officer of strike-plagued Greyhound Lines Inc. ″We will not negotiate with people who are involved in terrorism.″
Representatives of striking Greyhound drivers denied responsibility, but Currey said he would refuse to reopen talks until a week goes by without a shooting.
The bus belonged to Southeastern Trailways, an independent company, but operated on Greyhound routes with Greyhound passengers under a pooling arrangement that existed before the strike, said Greyhound spokesman George Gravley.
Southeastern Trailways has been carrying more Greyhound passengers than usual in recent weeks because of the strike, said Greyhound’s Nashville Division general manager, Larry M. Glasscock Jr.
About 6,300 Greyhound drivers nationwide went on strike March 2, and the company has reported 29 shooting attacks on its buses, 70 bomb threats and more than 100 other incidents. A picket was killed March 3 in Redding, Calif., when he was crushed as a bus driven by a replacement driver was backing up. There were no charges filed in that incident.
A $100,000 reward that Greyhound offered last week for information on strike-related violence will be offered in this case, Gravley said.
The driver, David E. Bryant, 58, of Cincinnati underwent six hours of surgery Sunday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. None of the 46 passengers was injured in the attack late Saturday on the bus heading from Nashville to Louisville, Ky.
One of two men in a pickup truck that pulled up alongside the bus opened fire with a .44-caliber or .45-caliber handgun on Interstate 65 near White House, Tenn., about 30 miles north of Nashville, authorities said.
The bullet entered the bus through a front window and struck the driver, a member of the union on strike against Greyhound, state Trooper Randy Pack said.
Hospital spokesman Wayne Wood said the driver was in critical but stable condition.
″It’s now a matter of just waiting and sort of seeing what happens,″ Wood said. ″If everything goes perfectly his arm will not need to be amputated. If there’s a problem, unfortunately, that still could happen.″
Three of the passengers refused to board another bus for Louisville and were returned to Nashville on vans.
Greyhound officials told leaders of the striking Amalgamated Transit Union on Thursday that Greyhound would return to the bargaining table on Monday.
But on Friday, the company announced that it was calling off the meeting, citing continuing violence.
″They say they don’t condone it,″ Currey told a news conference, ″but yet they don’t do anything to stop it.″
The chairman flew from Dallas, where Greyhound is based, to Nashville early Sunday, but has unable to visit the driver.
Joe Semmes, an executive board member for the union’s Local 1613 in Nashville, said the shooting could not have been the work of union members because the driver is a union member.
″This shooting last night leads me to believe it is outside work and not related to any of our unions whatsoever,″ he said. ″This Southeastern Trailways is a member of the same labor organization we are.″
Currey said striking drivers must have been involved in the latest shooting, because until the strike began, Greyhound buses hadn’t been fired on in the three years he has controlled the company.
Semmes said Southeastern Trailways drivers were honoring picket lines by refusing to drive buses into terminals in Nashville and Knoxville. Instead, supervisors must do that job, he said.
Semmes blamed the shootings on ″demented people.″
″They hear Mr. Currey say he won’t negotiate while this violence continues,″ he said. ″And they say ’here’s a good chance I can stir up a lot of trouble.‴
Currey said he wanted to meet with Gov. Ned McWherter to see what measures can be taken to increase safety aboard Greyhound buses. He said he had offered to place two-way radios in buses that could be monitored by state troopers after shootings in Hamilton County, but said the governor had shown no interest. Authorities in at least two states, Florida and Ohio, installed radios aboard buses after shootings there.
Currey said that, in the meantime, off-duty police will be riding Greyhound buses across Tennessee.
An investor group that bought Greyhound in March 1987 purchased Trailways Lines Inc. four months later and merged the two under the Greyhound label, but the purchase did not affect 34 small, regional bus companies around the country that also use the Trailways name.
Greyhound spokeswoman Liz Hale said Southeastern Trailways was not affected by the merger.
By using non-striking and newly hired drivers, Greyhound increased its routes Sunday to 54 percent of its pre-strike runs.