Singapore — Two men have been commended for stopping a passenger who was attacking a bus captain along Pasir Ris Drive 6 on Sept 15.
SBS Transit held an appreciation session on Sept 25 to thank Mr Muhammad Mu’tasim, 25, and Mr Clement Tan, 29, for helping the bus captain together with a third person. Each received a hamper and a certificate of appreciation. The company is looking for the third person.
The assault took place at about 2.45 pm that day when bus captain Low Kok Weng, who was plying a Service 21 route, told Ja’afally Abdul Rahim, 52, that he had to wear a mask. The man was not wearing a mask and put it on only after he had boarded the bus.
Ja’afally then started to hurl vulgarities at Mr Low and began to assault him when he stopped the bus to wait for the police.
SBS Transit said:
“The man grabbed the bus captain’s neck and collar, holding on for more than a minute. He refused to let go even when our BC pleaded with him to do so. Our BC could be seen cowering with his arms shielding his face as the man started punching him repeatedly on the head.
“It was here that three young men who were at the bus stop rushed up the bus and tackled the assailant, dragging him out of the bus to the bus stop. They pinned him to the ground while awaiting the arrival of the police, who came soon after. The man was later taken away handcuffed by the police.”
Mr Low, who sought medical treatment at Changi General Hospital, was shaken by the incident but did not sustain any serious injuries.
Meanwhile, Ja’afally has been charged with voluntarily causing hurt and carrying a knife with a 6cm blade on the bus.
In an interview with the media, Mr Muhammad Mu’tasim, a private student with the University of Buffalo, said he was on the way to his grandparents’ home when he noticed a group of secondary school students peering into a bus near a bus stop.
He decided to take a closer look since students do not usually wait at that bus stop and found Mr Low in his seat and a passenger hitting him. Mr Muhammad Mu’tasim rushed into the bus and pinned Ja’afally down. He said: “I didn’t feel any fear … I just thought he was intoxicated.”
He added: “I was just focused on subduing the person and it was only later made clear to me that he was holding a weapon. I didn’t really think much about it but in hindsight, it was a pretty dangerous situation because the knife could have seriously injured any one of us.”
Giving credit to the training he received in National Service for preparing him on how to react to such a situation, the student said: “If anything untoward happens, I believe it’s only the right thing that someone else steps up to help the person.”
Mr Tan, a financial adviser who works at the Great Eastern insurance firm, also said that his NS training helped him handle the situation. At that time, he was on the way to the airport to study for his examinations.
Mr Tan noticed the attack when other commuters were alighting from the bus. He said: “When the first attack was launched, two other guys and I went over to assist and pull the attacker down.”
He added: “It was too short of a time to think. I just went in with the mindset of getting the guy out because if it was my loved ones or my friends, I would do the same thing.”
Mr Tan, Mr Muhammad Mu’tasim and the third person held the assailant in a face-up position. The man was struggling slightly and a passer-by shouted that he had a weapon in his pocket. They managed to wrest it away from him.
According to SBS Transit, this was not the first time one of its bus captains had been abused over face masks. It said after the incident: “What happened yesterday is unfortunately not an incident in isolation. Several of our BCs have been abused in the last few months on account of enforcing the strict mask-up rule. This is repugnant. And this must stop.”
Mr Cheng Siak Kian, acting Chief Executive Officer of SBS Transit, added that the company is supporting Mr Low in his bid to take legal action while providing legal advice to him. He said on Friday that the company is also working to improve protective shields for its bus captains.
Aside from providing them with training on how to navigate such situations, Mr Cheng said that the captains are equipped with technology such as two-way communication and on-demand live feed that can be accessed at SBS Transit’s operations control centre to help them during such incidents.
Meanwhile, the Government has said that it will take a zero-tolerance approach towards abuse against transport workers. Echoing SBS Transit’s condemnation of abusive acts against its bus captains, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung described the attack on Mr Low as “despicable”.
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