January 6, 2012
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter
A bus operator has to go through rigorous training before he or she can navigate the roads with competing vehicles, pedestrians crossing the street without waiting for a red light and unpredictable weather during the day or night. But there are no training preparation or safety measures that can prepare a bus driver when someone decides to dart in front of an oncoming bus in an apparent suicide attempt.
Unfortunately, and regrettably, a teenage girl in Staten Island on December 27 decided to take her life by jumping in front of a bus driven by Pete of TWU Local 726. Danny Cassella, the new president of Local 726, told LaborPress it was raining heavily as the bus was going along Hylan Boulevard the day the incident occurred. Suddenly, the girl, Amanda Cummings, obscured by a large pole, bolted into the path of the oncoming bus, which was witnessed by two EMS workers who immediately attended to the girl.
“They [the EMS workers] were in their ambulance just 5 feet away when they saw her leap onto the street. They couldn’t believe it,” said Cassella.
The EMS workers also attended to Pete, the driver, who was very shaken up after the event. Cassella said Pete has not been driving since the episode, but is expected to return behind the wheel this coming weekend.
Pete told LaborPress that he is a little nervous about going back to work, but said, “The only way to overcome my nervousness is to stay behind the wheel and go through with it.”
He’s been driving a bus with passengers for the past two weeks at the MTA NYC Transit Zerega Training Facility in the Bronx to help him acclimate to driving conditions before going back on his route.
According to TWU Local 100, there is at least one person per week jumping in front of oncoming subway cars in a suicide attempt. For many of the people, very little is known about the reasons or circumstances that contributed to their decision outside family or friends. As terrible and painful as it must be for family members, and the anger that may develop after the sorrow has subsided when a loved one commits suicide, it may seem unfair to the subway operator because he or she has to live with that event for the rest of their lives.
Cassella said the last time a person jumped in front of a bus driven by a Local 726 member occurred about four years ago, also on Hylan Boulevard. Nonetheless, Pete said it was the biggest trauma of his life. “It’s a memory I’ll never forget.” But Pete, who has a 14-year old daughter, said he has no frustration or anger towards the teenager, who succumbed to her injuries and sadly passed away on January 2, only remorse and sympathy. “My condolences go out to the family,” said Pete.
Cassella said the union does offer counseling services which members can avail when tragedy strikes. Pete has been relying also on his fellow union brothers and sisters for support, who have been offering him encouraging words.
As he readies himself for Sunday, and copes with the biggest trauma of his life, Pete said, “I’m dealing with it day by day.”