Even as the shrieking passenger punched her face and pushed her to the ground, Judy Haver wasn’t going to let go of the wheel.
She was determined to protect her other passengers, including three pregnant women, two children and a small baby.
With strength, wits, the help of her passengers, and some shoelaces and duct tape, Haver, 46, was able to bring down the hijacker, she told the Oregonian Tuesday, still sore from Friday night’s experience.
“She’s a real strong person,” said Tom Salazar, who supervises Greyhound drivers in the Portland area. “What she did was heroic.”
Jorge Luis Castillo, 26, was being held in Baker County Jail on $25,000 bail. He’s charged with 18 counts of kidnapping, 19 counts of reckless endangering and several assault charges. District Attorney Greg Baxter said he plans to bring the case to a grand jury early next week.
Haver of West Linn has worked as a bus driver for six years but only began driving for Greyhound in June. Although the company teaches its drivers how to deal with unruly passengers, accidents and medical emergencies, it has no specific instruction on how to fend off someone who is trying to rip the steering wheel from a driver’s grip.
Haver was en route from Boise to Portland when at about 10 p.m., as bus No. 2937 cruised down Interstate 84 east of Baker City, a man in the back began to kick at one of the windows.
Haver heard his foot slam against the glass, but she told herself it was only the bathroom door slamming shut and kept her eyes on the road.
She did not see the man creep up the aisle toward her.
“The next thing I know there’s hands on my steering wheel,” she said. “I look up, and there’s this screaming face in my face.”
The man pulled hard to the left, and the bus began to drift into the opposite lane of traffic. Haver yanked the steering wheel to the right as hard as she could.
The man pummeled her face and arms. She refused to let go.
She grabbed the emergency brake and the bus screeched to a stop, coming to rest on the other side of the freeway.
He shoved her out the bus door. She landed hard on her back in the dirt. When she looked up, the man was in the driver’s seat.
She tried to disable the bus by turning off the main power switch. But the engine didn’t stop.
The bus began to roll forward. Haver ran after it and launched herself through the open door.
She and another passenger struggled with the man at the wheel. They both slammed their feet on the brake.
“The bus!” someone yelled. “The bus is going over!’
Haver looked up and saw they were headed for a 40-foot embankment. She pulled the emergency brake again.
The belly of the bus dragged on the slope. Haver slammed against the windshield. The bus lurched to a stop with its front end wedged on the shoulder of U.S. 30, about 30 miles east of Baker City.
Haver and some other passengers tried to grab the man, but he threw them all off the bus. He kicked a woman’s purse containing her insulin out the door.
Haver shouted to the people who were still inside: “Everybody, pop the windows open and climb out.” A mother handed Haver her baby.
The hijacker climbed to the roof of the bus and pulled off his white T-shirt.
“I’ve saved everybody,” he bellowed.
Several cars and semi-trucks pulled over on the interstate. A truck driver called the police.
When the shirtless man ventured after them, several passengers formed a ring around him. But he broke free and tried to hijack other cars on the interstate.
He grabbed a metal pipe from the flatbed of a pickup and hit a man in the back of the head.
A truck driver then pulled a gun from his rig and fired a warning shot.
Haver and several others wrestled the startled hijacker to the ground and tied him up using a roll of duct tape and shoelaces.
They all stood by each other until police arrived, Haver said.
She comforted a pregnant passenger who could not stop throwing up. One man grabbed a flashlight and searched around in the dark for the purse containing the insulin.
Haver refused to go to the hospital until all her passengers were taken care of and safely aboard a new bus: “I had to make sure they were all really safe.”
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