CROWN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn (WABC) -- Police are searching for the man who punched a bus driver in Brooklyn and poured lighter fluid on him before getting away.
The attack happened Saturday around 6 p.m. at Nostrand Avenue near Empire Boulevard in Crown Heights.
The 57-year-old bus driver had pulled over his vehicle because a large fight broke out on the bus where a younger suspect had attacked an older man.
The bus was stopped by the driver, and all the passengers flooded off - including the suspect.
The only person left on the bus was the victim who was sprawled out on the floor of the bus. When the bus driver went to check on him, police say that man suddenly punched the bus operator in the face.
He poured lighter fluid on the bus driver before fleeing the southbound B44 bus.
The driver managed to take a picture of the suspect before he got away.
The driver was taken to the hospital for treatment.
"The driver is traumatized. He's in a normal state of shock and trauma," said Alexander Kemp of Transport Workers Union, Local 100. "He was punched in the stomach. He was punched in the face. And then he was doused with charcoal lighter fluid, the kind of fluid you would use to light a barbecue grill. And you can just understand how insane that sounds."
The MTA called the attack "beyond outrageous" in a statement:
"Targeting a bus operator with violence is beyond outrageous because attacks on public servants are attacks on all of us. When the NYPD catches this unhinged criminal-and they will-prosecutors should ensure he faces maximum consequences under the law."
Assaults against transit workers have been rising steadily since the pandemic. Subway conductors have gotten punched out. Bus drivers have been stabbed and beaten and even shot at. According to the union, on average, someone spits on a bus driver every other day in New York City.
Transit officials insisted today they're committed to worker safety.
"We will do everything possible to ensure that they remain safe on the job," said Shanifah Rieara, MTA Acting Chief Customer Officer.
But the union claims assaults on bus drivers are up nearly 20%.
"The types of assaults are becoming by far more violent than they've ever been," Kemp said. "And drivers feel less protected today than they ever have."
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