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Wednesday 16 October 2019

Driver abducts schoolchildren and sets bus ablaze ‘in migrant deaths protest’

The driver, an Italian citizen of Senegalese origin, threatened the passengers, telling them that ‘no-one would survive’, officials said.

Firefighters and police officers stand by the gutted remains of a bus in San Donato Milanese, near Milan (Daniele Bennati/ANSA via AP)
Firefighters and police officers stand by the gutted remains of a bus in San Donato Milanese, near Milan (Daniele Bennati/ANSA via AP)

By Colleen Barry, Associated Press

A bus driver in northern Italy abducted 51 children and their chaperones, ordering the children’s hands to be bound and threatening them with death, before setting the vehicle on fire when he was stopped by a Carabinieri blockade.

Officers broke the glass in the back door of the bus and got all the passengers to safety without serious injury before the flames destroyed the vehicle.

As he was apprehended, the driver said he was protesting over migrant deaths in the Mediterranean, commander Luca De Marchis said.

Mr De Marchis told Sky24 TV that the driver, an Italian citizen of Senegalese origin in his forties, threatened the passengers, telling them that “no-one would survive” as he commandeered the bus carrying two classes in Cremona province, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Milan.

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The gutted remains of the bus in San Donato Milanese (Daniele Bennati/ANSA via AP)

ANSA quoted one of the students as saying the driver took all their phones and ordered the chaperones to bind the students’ hands with cable ties, threatening to spill fuel and set the bus ablaze.

The student, whose name was not given, said a classmate managed to conceal his phone.

Authorities said that an adult called an emergency operator, while one of the students called a parent, and they alerted authorities, who set up roadblocks.

The bus was intercepted on the outskirts of Milan by three Carabinieri vehicles, which were able to force it into the guardrail, Mr De Marchis said.

“While two officers kept the driver busy – he took a lighter and threatened to set fire to the vehicle with a gasoline canister on board – the others forced open the back door,” Mr De Marchis said.

While the evacuation was under way, the driver started the blaze.

Mr De Marchis credited the officers’ “swiftness and courage” for getting out all the children and their teachers “with no tragic consequences”.

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Firefighters and police officers near the burnt-out bus (Daniele Bennati/ANSA via AP)

Some of the passengers were treated in hospital, mostly for cuts and scratches related to the evacuation, he said.

The driver was apprehended and was being treated for burns.

ANSA identified him as Ousseynou Sy and said he was being investigated on suspicion of kidnapping, intention to commit mass murder, arson and resisting law enforcement.

Mr De Marchis said he had previous convictions but did not specify their nature.

ANSA reported that Sy, who became an Italian citizen in 2004, had been convicted in 2007 and 2011 of drunken driving and sexual molestation of a minor.

Sky TG24 said the driver had worked for the bus company for 15 years without any employment-related issues.

“Investigators must clarify how the transport company permitted such a delinquent … to drive a bus, especially one carrying children,” said Riccardo De Corato, a Milan provincial official for security.

Video showed firefighters dousing the bus, which had been completely gutted by flames, leaving only the charred metal frame.

PA Media

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