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Man holds MTA bus driver hostage, sets in motion hundreds losing power in St. Albans

mta bus hijacked
A hostage situation on a bus in Queens led the driver to jump out the window and the bus to crash into a utility pole, resulting in hundreds of Queens residents losing power. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

An assault on a hostage MTA bus driver in eastern Queens set off a chain reaction of events that ultimately led to hundreds of households losing power Thursday morning.

Police say that at around 7:23 a.m. on Oct. 27, a 44-year-old man ran in front of a Q4 bus at Linden Boulevard and 197th Street in St. Albans and demanded he be allowed to board. The bus was carrying around 20-25 passengers at the time, whom the driver allowed to disembark at that point.

Law enforcement sources said the man, who claimed he was being chased, brandished what appeared to be a firearm at the driver and ordered him to drive. Police later said the weapon was actually just a BB gun.

After being held hostage for a mile-and-a-half, the driver — unsure where or what the gunman was leading him to — made a daring escape by jumping out the window of the moving jitney near the intersection of Linden and 232nd Street in Cambria Heights.

“He felt like that was his opportunity to escape, I don’t think he knew where the guy was gonna go,” a police source said. “He was probably afraid for his life. So he jumped out the window.”

Police say the weapon held by the assailant appeared to be a simple BB gun. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

The gunman attempted to take control of the vehicle, but it didn’t last long: the bus crashed into a utility pole by a pre-school, the Cambria Center for the Gifted Child, a block away at 233rd Street.

The gunman left the bus and was quickly apprehended by authorities.

Unfortunately, the driver’s escape from captivity dovetailed into a hellish morning for Cambria Heights residents. The crash caused the collapse of a transformer on the pole, taking it out of service, and resulting in the loss of power for 850 Con Edison customers, the utility said.

Most affected residents had their power restored within a few hours, said a rep for Con Ed. Only two customers were still without power in Cambria Heights as of noon, per the utility’s live outage map.

No passengers remained on the bus during the hostage jaunt, said Deputy Chief Jerry O’Sullivan at a press conference. The driver, a 21-year MTA veteran, was taken to Franklin Hospital in Valley Stream, Nassau County with minor injuries.

Police, transit, and utility officials investigate a bus crash site in Queens. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

“I definitely want to commend the driver for his actions, he did not move the bus until everyone was off that bus,” O’Sullivan said. “It could’ve been a lot worse. I believe the driver was calm and did a great job up until the point of collision.”

Mark Henry, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 — which represents drivers out of the Jamaica Bus Depot — said the operator is traumatized from the ordeal.

“He’s traumatized, he hasn’t been communicating too much given what’s happened,” Henry told amNewYork Metro. “Safety and security is always paramount in our union. My concern is always for the operator, I want him to go home to his family.”

The gunman, whose identity has not yet been released, was also taken to an area hospital, and charges against him are pending. Cops said he appeared to be acting erratically.

Students at the school adjacent to the crash site were sent home for the day.

This story was updated at 1 p.m. on Oct. 27 and  first appeared on amny.com.

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