PHOTO:, from the NT News
Tour bus driver tells passengers: “If you have problems with me, make a complaint. I’m the owner of this company.”
From the ntnews.com.au, 28th July 2014
BRAVE passengers afraid for their lives on a Northern Territory tour tried to grab a bottle from their allegedly drunk bus driver, offered to take the wheel, and finally called police after she became aggressive, threatening, and drove dangerously.
The minibus was returning to Darwin from a trip to the jumping crocodiles at Adelaide River when the passengers decided enough was enough.
Passenger Geraldine Cullen rang the police after the About Darwin tour driver got out of control on Sunday afternoon.
“We were petrified on the bus,” she said.
“She was drinking when she was driving. She was drinking out of a plastic bottle.
“We tried to grab it but she copped on.”
Ms Cullen, a restaurant manager, said some German tourists recorded the driving on a camera.
“She went on the opposite side of the road to oncoming traffic,” Ms Cullen said.
“I roared, and she just said: “That was dodgy”.
“There was a creek and she nearly drove in, and she said: “It’s only water”.
“On the way back, she was worse.
“She was 10 times worse on the way back.
“She was driving behind cars and nearly hitting the backs of them.”
Ms Cullen was on the bus with her boyfriend Mark Hewitt, both 28, and were up from Brisbane for a weekend break. Instead of a relaxing holiday, the Irish couple were faced with a life-and-death dilemma.
“I said: “You need to stop”,” she said.
“I said: “You look really tired. Do you want one of us to drive”.
“She said: “what do you mean? Does anyone else not want me to drive?”
“They said yes.
“She called me a bitch and another one of the girls on the bus a bitch.
“Then she said on the microphone: “If you have problems with me, make a complaint. I’m the owner of this company.”
The driver then became angry.
“She just totally lost it and started speeding up and said: “I’ll let you out now and you can walk or get a cab. It’ll take you two hours”,” Ms Cullen said.
“She got really angry and put her foot to the floor.
“On the way back, I said ‘Oh my God we’re going to die on this bus’.
“I was afraid to say anything because she was drunk and she’ll end up killing us.”
“Me and an American girl looked at each other and said ‘this is it’.”
Ms Cullen said the driver also threatened to trap passengers on the bus unless they had receipts, which were never requested at the start of the trip.
From her bus seat, Ms Cullen rang police on the Tiger Brennan Dr to warn them of the unfolding disaster. She also rang the driver’s husband, the actual owner of the company, to let him know what just happened.
Police waited on Mitchell St in Darwin CBD with a breathalyser in-hand for the bus driver to arrive.
“She didn’t even notice the cops for a while,” she said.
“Then she did and tried to reverse and clipped the cop car behind her with her back door still open.
“The cop was tapping on the window and she didn’t even notice.”
The cops ordered the 45-year-old driver blow down the long straw of the law, and she gave a 0.232 per cent breath-alcohol reading. Territory Duty Superintendent Bob Harrison said tour bus drivers must be free of any alcohol while at work — not even the normal 0.05 per cent legal limit for private motorists.
“I couldn’t function at that level, personally,” he said.
“How she gave the tour, I don’t know.”
Ms Cullen said the other passengers thanked her.
“She was taking people’s lives into her hands,” she said.
“I rang the husband and I felt really bad and told him.
“I wanted to apologise.
“He offered to give me my money back but I wanted to forget the whole thing.
“He was raging at her. He was disappointed in her.
“But he was really nice to me.”
The owner of About Darwin tours has apologised to the tourism industry.
Brian Waites told the NT News: “Our bus driver did the wrong thing and paid the penalty”.
“I feel the company has let the passengers down.
“At the end of the day, I’m responsible.
“I apologise deeply to the people on the bus at the time.
“It’s not an event that’s happened before.
“I’m sorry for letting the tourist industry down.”
His wife was driving the bus.
“My wife had a problem with depression and she suffers and has medicinal drugs,” he said.
“I’m not too sure about the cause of her behaviour.”
He said his wife had been to counselling. She has stopped driving.
Mr Waites said the company has another driver.
“I don’t know if I deserve the people’s trust anymore,” he said.
When Ms Cullen was asked if she and Mr Hewitt enjoyed the trip apart from the driving, she said: “We had a brilliant time. The crocs were an experience”.
And they made lifelong friends from the bus ride from hell.
“The couple we met on the bus we spent the evening with them and made friends forever,” she said.
She was concerned for the driver’s welfare and wished her the best.
“It just had to be done,” she said.
“I just couldn’t sit there shaking.”
Duty Superintendent Louise Jorgensen said the group of eight “got a somewhat extreme taste of the Top End”.
“This had come to the attention of other road users as well,” she said.
She has been charged with high-range drink driving and released to appear in Darwin Magistrates Court in August.