Award for hero who drove bus to safety with bomb on board
The bus driver who drove her vehicle to a place of safety after terrorists placed a bomb on board has been recognised for her bravery.
Translink Ulsterbus driver Michelle Starr was awarded the Gerry McKenna Hidden Hero Award at the Federation of Passenger Transport Northern Ireland Awards.
What began as a routine journey in Londonderry last November turned into a ride of fear for the driver and her nine terrified passengers.
A masked bomber stepped on board her vehicle and placed a holdall with a pipe-bomb directly behind the driver's seat, told her it contained a bomb and ordered her to drive to Strand Road police station before callously walking away.
Ms Starr, who is in her 30s, instead drove the bus a short distance to a safer place and alerted the emergency services.
At the time Chief Superintendent Stephen Cargin described her efforts as "heroic" and said she had absolutely saved lives.
The FPTNI Award is seen as a physical recognition by her employers of Michelle's bravery.
She has never spoken publicly of her courageous deed.
Alan Young, Translink service delivery manager, said: "Michelle is a true hidden hero for her actions in a security alert – she demonstrated great courage and is a perfect ambassador for Translink.
"Her dedication and commitment for going above and beyond has been rewarded and I am very proud of Michelle."
Dissident republicans were blamed for the attack, but to date no one has been charged with the offence.
Derry City councillor for the Ballymagroarty area John Boyle also paid tribute to Ms Starr.
He said: "Michelle is a very deserving recipient of the Gerry McKenna Hidden Hero award for her bravery under extreme duress.
"Michelle was and still is a selfless heroine.
"She put her own life at risk in an effort to protect the lives of others.
"Her bravery has rightly been recognised by her peers at the annual Federation of Passenger Transport Northern Ireland Awards.
"I would like to offer Michelle my heartiest congratulations," he said.
"Her Translink colleagues are rightly very proud of Michelle."
Mr Boyle added: "The people of Ballymagroarty, in particular, are delighted that Michelle has been recognised in this way."