WTVM Investigates: Seven people left stranded at the Greyhound Bus station in Columbus
COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - It was Thursday, September 29, 2022. A Greyhound third-party bus rolled into Columbus to its normal pick up/drop off location. What was supposed to be a 15-minute stop at the Sunoco Gas Station on St. Mary’s Road quickly turned into a nightmare for seven Greyhound passengers.
”I grabbed a couple of drinks, and she came and yelled and said we had 3 minutes,” according to Hannah Wright who said she boarded the bus at 3 a.m. in Lafayette, Louisiana bound for her home state of Indiana. Almost instantly after the bus attendant made that statement, she left her snacks at the checkout counter.
”We come running out here and they are leaving us, and they see us running after them and all of our bags and everything are on there,” recalled Wright.
Vietnam Veteran W.D. Waters, a Fort Benning trainee in the 70s, was going to Detroit to his help his sister and her sick husband move home to Selma, Alabama. He explained how he tried to get the bus driver to stop and open the door.
”They just keep saying no, no, no,” added Waters, “No, we could not get on the bus.”
The 72-year-old did not have his clothes or medication. Like Hannah Wright and all the other passengers left stranded that day, everything they had packed for their trip was all on that bus now headed for Atlanta. ”We didn’t know what we were going to do at that point,” said Waters. ”I am scared. I do not know where I am. I do not know how I am going to get home and I do not know why they can just do that to people leave them in places that they do not know.”
The other four passengers were all foreigners from Honduras, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. None of them could speak English. All were complete strangers except for a very frightened 12-year-old girl and her mother. She held onto to her mom for comfort during the agonizing ordeal. All the stranded passengers were traveling to different destinations.
Urania Gutierrez purchased a $272 ticket from Greyhound to make the trip from Houston, Texas to Newark, New Jersey. When I arrived at the gas station, using an interpreter app, they offered to pay me cash to order an Atlanta-bound Uber for them. The City of Columbus was able to put us in contact with Greyhound who closed its station located on Veterans Parkway near Uptown Columbus in 2020 and moved to the Sunoco gas station on St. Mary’s Road with no attendant on site anymore.
I explained the situation to the Greyhound worker on the phone and they quickly sprang into action, ordering two large Ubers to transport the passengers from the Fountain City to Atlanta. To better communicate with them, I called WTVM producer Sheila Vasquez to interpret for us.
The seven passengers were finally able to leave Columbus after being stranded for 4 hours. The manager at the Sunoco says the seven passengers left stranded are a small crowd compared as many as fourteen people who have been left at one time in the past by Greyhound. The manager said this is an ongoing problem. They sent News Leader 9 pictures of two elderly men, one in a wheelchair left with no place to go and no money on them in early September. Many days the owner of Destiny Dogs, located inside the Sunoco, Kenny Williams, will feed the people stranded for free just as he did for the seven stranded passengers or drop them off at hotels if necessary.
Greyhound declined our request for an on-camera interview, but released the company released this statement:
“As the largest provider of intercity bus transportation in North America, Greyhound partners with other bus companies across its network to provide service, as seen in Columbus. While the tickets were booked through Greyhound, the bus involved was not a Greyhound and the driver was not employed by Greyhound. We are currently in the process of exploring corrective action regarding the incident. We are happy, however, to report we were able to provide alternative trip arrangements for impacted customers.”
Greyhound could not tell us any information about disciplinary actions against the driver because they say he is not their employee. We found out the driver works for Sam’s Limousine & Transportation based in Houston, Texas. We have reached out to them and are still waiting to hear back.
It is still unclear why the bus driver left the passengers in Columbus in the first place. We were able to catch up with two of the stranded passengers. They confirmed with Greyhound told News Leader 9 - that they did in fact make it to their final destinations and picked up their luggage in Atlanta.
It is also important to note that Columbus City Manager Isaiah Hugley sent Home for Good representatives to the gas station that day to see how they could assist the passengers. The city’s homeless prevention resource which operates under the United Way stayed on site until every passenger had left. Hugley also sent public safety officer there to ensure everyone’s safety.
Going forward, if anyone passengers are stranded or does not have a place to go after being dropped off at the Greyhound bus stop, the gas station has instructions to call Home for Good.
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