Female bus driver's heroic actions foiled dissidents' attempt to bomb police station
The heroic efforts of a woman who was ordered to drive her bus with a bomb placed just behind her seat to a police station has been praised for taking it to a place of safety instead.
What began as a routine journey in Londonderry turned into a terror journey for the driver and her nine passengers after a masked man stepped on board in Ballymagroarty.
He placed a holdall with a viable pipe bomb, attached to a two-hour timing unit, directly behind the driver's seat, told her it contained a bomb and ordered her to drive to Strand Road police station.
His cowardly actions stood in complete contrast to the driver's, who kept a steady nerve as she drove her bus away from a built-up housing estate to a place of safety before alerting the police.
Today she is recovering from her shocking experience – but her bravery has been widely praised.
Chief Superintendent Stephen Cargin described the bus driver, who is in her 30s, as heroic and said her actions had saved lives.
He added: "This was a mindless, reckless act of terrorism. To put the lives of a driver and people on that bus at risk is reckless and is an attack on the community in Derry.
"We believe this was the work of dissident republicans. The person who put the device on the bus said they were from the IRA. I believe it is one of the dissident groups here in the city." Chief Supt Cargin said it was the third incident to target police in recent weeks.
In the aftermath of the alert, 40 homes were evacuated.
"If the bus driver had kept driving and the device had exploded, who knows what we would now be talking about," the police chief said. "She was very brave."
The bus and the device have been removed for forensic examination and the onboard CCTV footage will also be scrutinised.
Translink's Ciaran Rogan said: "The driver is badly shaken by the event. She acted in a very professional and courageous manner during what was a very difficult and traumatic incident.
"This is not something that anyone should have to face in the course of a normal day's work."
Foyle MP Mark Durkan praised the bus driver, saying: "I would like to express my admiration for this woman – as well as sympathy to her for what she has gone through."
Justice Minister David Ford pleaded with people to pass any relevant information to the police.
"The bus driver is, as you can understand, extremely traumatised and distressed and I am sure she is now reflecting on what the consequences could have been of a device put directly behind her, who wants to even speculate what could have happened. I can only praise her for her actions – she is a very, very brave lady"
Chief Superintendent Stephen Cargin