- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2001

MANCHESTER, Tenn. A passenger on a Greyhound bus slashed the driver's throat with a blade, grabbed the wheel and crashed the vehicle yesterday, killing six of the 41 persons aboard and prompting the company to temporarily shut down service.

The driver was in stable condition following surgery for a 4- to 5-inch cut on his neck. The 34 others aboard were also injured.

The FBI said the 29-year-old assailant was among the dead. He was identified as Damir Igric, a Croatian who entered the United States in Miami in March 1999 with a one-month visa. He boarded the bus in Chicago.

"He just went up to the bus driver and, like, slit his throat," passenger Carly Rinearson told WTVF-TV of Nashville.

The attack renewed travel fears across a nation already on edge from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"I was on the bus and I'm alive. That's all I can tell you," passenger Ricardo Jamal Brooks said as he left a hospital. He chose Greyhound to get from Flint, Mich., to Atlanta because he was worried about airline safety.

"You could understand why [I chose the bus], but you know, you never know," he said.

The FBI said Igric was apparently trying to take over the bus.

"We believe he was acting alone," said R. Joe Clark, the FBI agent in charge of the Knoxville office. "I would say this was a disturbed individual this is not an act of terrorism."

A law-enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the name on the man's passport is not on government lists of known terrorists or those sought by the FBI in connection with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Mr. Clark said Igric attacked the driver "with an implement."

"It was sharp, we'll leave it at that," he said.

The driver told doctors that he was attacked with a box cutter, a device believed to have been used in last month's airliner hijackings.

The crash happened just after 4 a.m. on Interstate 24 near Manchester, 60 miles southeast of Nashville.

The bus, which originated in Chicago, was headed for Orlando, Fla.

At the time, most of those aboard were asleep.

Greyhound immediately shut down service as a precaution, pulling 2,000 to 2,500 buses off the nation's highways. After consulting with federal and state officials, it resumed service at noon, about seven hours later.

"The officials have assured me that they believe this tragic accident was the result of an isolated act by a single deranged individual," Greyhound president and chief executive Craig Lentzsch said.

The shutdown stranded some 70,000 passengers at stations across the United States, Greyhound spokeswoman Jamille Bradfield said.

The bus company carries 25 million passengers a year.

Dr. Al Brandon, chief of staff at the Medical Center of Manchester, said the driver, Garfield Sands, 53, told him the attacker was polite and spoke with a foreign accent.

"Every few minutes, he seemed to ask [the driver] what time it was and where they were," Police Chief Ross Simmons said.

Mr. Sands told doctors Igric suddenly "accosted" him, grabbed the wheel and forced the bus into the lanes of oncoming traffic.

It crossed the road and tipped over.

The driver crawled from the wreckage through a window and tried to flag down passing vehicles.

He told Dr. Brandon his attacker was thrown through the windshield.

Dana Keeton, a Tennessee Department of Safety spokeswoman, said six persons died at the site of the crash.

By late afternoon, 14 passengers remained hospitalized. Among them was Elena Wilson, who was 8-1/2 months pregnant and gave birth to a girl in an emergency Caesarean section. Both were in stable condition.

Others were treated and released.

Elsewhere, Greyhound passengers waited for hours or found other means of transportation.

"People are a little panicky about it," said Joi Smith, a Greyhound agent in New Hampshire. "They are freaked out, which is understandable."

Mr. Lentzsch, the company president, said that Greyhound was offering full refunds to passengers, and that Amtrak had agreed to accept Greyhound tickets.

He also said security was being bolstered: As service resumed, carry-on luggage was searched, and passengers in San Francisco, Dallas and Orlando were checked with hand-held metal detectors. The wands were introduced in response to the terrorist attacks.

Greyhound does not maintain lists of passengers.

"They ought to have a manifest," said Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist. "I think bus travel needs to be scrutinized as well as aircraft."

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