Fire, fright for TTC riders

Toronto Star

Dan Robson

Capture03-Sep-2009-11.52.26 AM

RELATED:  Man captures burning bus on cell phone – video

A TTC bus was engulfed in flames early this morning after a man poured large can of a flammable liquid on the back seats and lit them with a barbecue lighter.

Perhaps it was an act of desperation, or maybe, a crime of rage. Either way – as security video shows – the arsonist was flamingly dim.

A TTC bus erupted in fire early yesterday after a man poured a large can of a combustible liquid on the back seats and lit them with a barbecue lighter.

Frantic passengers fled the scene, as the new $700,000 hybrid bus burst into flames at a stop outside The Bay store at Yonge and Bloor Sts., just after 2:30 a.m.

The entire act was caught on a surveillance camera at the front of the bus. The video shows the man pulling a large red can from his backpack. He pulls off the cap and pours the liquid all over the seats, shaking out every last drop.

After he lights it, the flames erupt so quickly he is almost caught in them. As smoke fills the bus, he grabs his backpack and jacket, goes to leave, then stops. He looks into his empty knapsack, then glances back, as though something was forgotten. A white object is seen on the floor behind him. Then he flees.

Before lighting the bus on fire, witnesses say, the man punched a woman in the face for refusing to give him a cigarette at a bus stop. When she and other passengers confronted him, he got on the bus and set it on fire.

Joseph Luca and Aldo Cintan heard the commotion as they headed to the bus stop.

“It appeared to be a drunken scuffle. I thought, `Here we go again,'” said Luca, who was standing near the all-night bus, commonly referred to as the “vomit comet” because of its often-inebriated riders.

“And then suddenly I’m seeing flames.”

Luca called 911 while Cintan filmed the chaos on his cellphone. The smoke turned black. There was the smell of burning rubber and the sound of popping vinyl.

“I was thinking, `Holy crap, this is above the gas tank – this whole thing could blow,'” said Luca.

Deanna Vexler was getting off the southbound bus on the other side of Yonge St., when a man charged past her, clutching his backpack, as three men chased after him.

Someone screamed: “Somebody catch him! He just set the bus on fire!”

People stood around the bus, watching it burn, Vexler said. Everyone had got off the bus safely.

Another person yelled, “Everyone get away from the bus!”

The crowd scurried around – scared the burning bus might explode, but unable to look away.

“I was shocked that it didn’t explode,” Vexler said, adding she was relieved no one was caught in it.

Firefighters quickly extinguished the fire and no injuries were reported. The bus, however, is a write-off, said TTC spokesman Brad Ross.

The suspect fled the scene and hopped in a Beck taxi at Gloucester St. and Yonge St. Police are looking for the taxi driver.

Witnesses described the suspect as black, 6-feet tall, with a medium build. He has short black hair and a goatee. In the video, he is wearing khaki pants and a beige, long-sleeved unbuttoned shirt, with an orange shirt with white print underneath. His backpack is dark green.


Follow-up: Man arrested for TTC fire

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