Newtownabbey: Bus hijacked and set on fire by gang

Newtownabbey: Bus hijacked and set on fire by gang

Image source, Kyle Gardiner

A bus has been destroyed after it was hijacked and set on fire in Newtownabbey, County Antrim.

It happened near Valley Leisure Centre on Church Road at 19:45 GMT on Sunday.

Police said four men got on to the bus, ordered the passengers and the driver to get off and then set it alight.

No-one was injured, police said.

It is the second time in a week that a bus has been hijacked and burnt in Northern Ireland.

Last Monday morning two armed, masked men boarded a bus in Newtownards, County Down, ordered the driver to leave and then set it on fire.

Image source, Pacemaker

After the latest incident, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said it was “disgraceful and disgusting” that public transport workers had been targeted again.

“Translink buses are public assets,” said the SDLP assembly member.

“Without them people can’t get to and from work, or school, or hospital appointments.

“Our bus drivers are working class people who deserve to be safe in their jobs.

“People using public transport also deserve to feel safe and be able to go about their business without fear.”

Public transport provider Translink said the driver and a small number of passengers got off the bus safely.

“Our driver is badly shaken and is currently being supported by colleagues,” it said.

“We are very disappointed by this intimidating attack on our member of staff and public transport services in the area.”

All Metro and Glider services have been suspended for the remainder of Sunday evening but they are expected to be up and running on Monday morning.

Image source, Pacemaker

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson described the incident as “senseless”.

“Such criminal behaviour could lead to death or serious injury,” he tweeted.

“This only harms local people and local communities. It serves no cause whatsoever.

“The ringleaders should step back. Change is brought about by politics not by burning buses.”

Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “Hijacking and burning a bus achieves nothing.

“What it does do is terrorise and frighten people who are just trying to earn a living or get home to their families,” added the Alliance Party leader.

Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader Doug Beattie also took to social media to condemn the attack.

“Terrorising society with the hope of achieving what exactly?” he tweeted.

“This is utterly pathetic and it needs to stop. Those responsible do not represent the overwhelming majority who just want a peaceful society.”

Image source, Pacemaker

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly said the attack was “dangerous, reckless and despicable”.

“There is absolutely no place in our society for this criminality and violence,” said the North Belfast MLA.

“People want calm and responsible leadership to reduce tensions and ensure there is no further escalation of violence on our streets.”

Peter Macklin from the GMB union, which represents some Translink drivers, said it was “disgusting” that they should face such attacks.

“It’s totally disgusting that this could happen as they’re going about their day-to-day business,” he said.

“They go in to do their work and that’s it – they feel you should be able to do it safely without having this threat hanging over you every day.

“We’ll work closely with the company to try to make sure that all measures are put in place to prevent these things happening and to let people to go about their daily routine safely.”

Three fire engines were sent to extinguish the blaze and the crews left the scene at about 21:30.

Church Road will remain closed between O’Neill Road and the Abbey Centre overnight and into Monday.

Diversions are in place and motorists can expect delays in the area on Monday morning.

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