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'Abandoned' Greyhound bus passengers ponder lawsuit

Greyhound bus passengers wait at a gas station on Jan. 3., in White River, Ont., during a 14-hour ordeal in which they said they were abandoned by the driver.

Karina Hunter/Karina Hunter/The Canadian Press

Angry Greyhound bus passengers were contemplating legal action after being left to fend for themselves for some 14 hours in a small town in northern Ontario.

Many of the more than 100 westbound passengers who were stuck in White River, Ont., on two buses said the company added insult to injury by giving them the runaround when they sought answers.

"It was just a brutal experience," Paul Hitchin said Tuesday after arriving in Calgary. "I've never seen a company do something like that to people and not care any more."

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Passengers said the buses pulled into a gas station in the town of 840 for what they expected to be a pit stop.

A driver told them it was snowing and to "sit tight." He then checked in at a nearby motel.

"That was the last we seen of our driver," said Mr. Hitchin, who paid $600 for his round trip, and was en route from Barrie, Ont.

Passengers, including small children and at least one diabetic, and some low on money, waited on the bus or in a doughnut shop from about 3 a.m. Sunday until 5 p.m. Sunday.

They said a Greyhound driver occasionally provided scraps of information.

Some passengers' attempts to reach a company representative by phone from White River were unsuccessful. Others said customer service representatives hung up on them when they tried on Tuesday to get answers.

Late Tuesday morning, Greyhound issued a statement blaming "unforeseen weather conditions and resulting road closures" for the delay.

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"We sincerely apologize for the lack of communication provided to our passengers, as well as the inconvenience and concern this caused," the company said. "We are conducting a full investigation and will modify our inclement-weather procedures as necessary to ensure this does not happen again."

Passengers weren't buying Greyhound's weather explanation.

They said the road was closed briefly, and that they watched in frustration as other buses, trucks and cars whizzed by for hours before they got going again.

Passengers praised Karina Hunter, a reporter and editor with the online publication, for drawing attention to their ordeal.

"These people weren't safe," Ms. Hunter said. "What if one of them lost it?"

She noted several incidents in recent years of violence aboard Greyhound buses in the area and wondered if any safety protocol changes had been made.

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Greyhound spokesman Tim Stokes said from Cincinnati that the company "will be working with each customer individually" about compensation.

Mr. Hitchin said some passengers were offered $100, which he called inadequate.

Paramedic student Steve Youden, 28, missed his connection from Thunder Bay, Ont., to Fort Frances, Ont.

Greyhound told him he would have to wait two days at the terminal for another bus or buy a ticket at triple the price of the original for a roundabout route to his destination.

"It was basically, 'Sorry, there's nothing else we can do,' " Mr. Youden said.

He found a cheap hotel, and managed to bum a ride to Fort Frances with other guests.

Elaine Legarde, 47, a registered nurse from Thunder Bay, said she was looking into launching a class-action lawsuit.

Her ticket from Toronto cost $234.48, but the $100 she saved by taking the bus rather than flying was eaten up by the costs incurred at the stop, she said.

"There was just no safety plan; these drivers just left us to fend on our own," Ms. Legarde said Tuesday. "Five hours is an inconvenience. Thirteen hours is an injustice. That's on the border of abuse and abandonment."

Roofer Jason Hollingsworth, 24, who was en route from Truro, N.S., to Calgary, said the delay cost him two days of work.

"They didn't offer us an apology, no nothing," he said. "I'm never going to use Greyhound again."

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