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Hero bus driver calls for first-aid training for all operators

Last Updated Feb 16, 2018 at 1:39 pm EST

A Mississauga bus driver who is being hailed a hero for giving CPR to a passenger who had a heart attack is calling for first-aid training for all transit operators in the GTA.

Ben Elliott, a 10-year veteran with MiWay transit, said a Peel Paramedics dispatcher had to walk him through CPR step-by-step last Thursday after a man’s heart stopped while on his bus.

“It was very traumatic,” Elliott said. “It was a bad situation for sure and very shortly after it got actually a lot worse.”

Elliott said he was driving the 57 Courtneypark south at 5:37 a.m., when a passenger came running up to the front of the bus to tell him another man was having a medical episode at the back.

Elliott said the man couldn’t speak, his hands were tight against his chest and he was gurgling and growling. The two men then called 911. Elliott and another passenger moved the man to the floor of the bus, put the phone on speaker and placed it on a nearby seat.

Elliott said when the man stopped making any sounds, he told the dispatcher to hurry crews to his location. That’s when the dispatcher told him he’d have to perform CPR.

“The dispatcher was absolutely phenomenal,” Elliott said. “She said everything I needed to hear to help calm me down and get me [to do] what I needed to do.”

Elliott said the life-and-death incident shows all bus operators should get basic first-aid training.

“I do strongly believe that it is something that should be offered,” he said.

Jack Jackson, president of ATU Local 1572, the union representing MiWay bus operators, said it’s something that should be considered across the country.

“I think the biggest takeaway is that this isn’t shocking for us,” Jackson said. “We see our operators jump into action all across Canada.”

MiWay said there are no immediate plans to expand the standard five-week training given to all operators.

“A large part of it is driving,” said Patrick Phaneuf, senior manager of transit operations. “But there’s also customer service, customer relations and a good component is recognizing emergency medical situations.”

The TTC, the largest and oldest urban transit provider in the GTA, trains its transit enforcement unit in first aid, along with selected station staff. Its subway, streetcar and bus operators do not get first-aid training.

“The operators on all of our vehicles have what’s called a trump unit that allows them to connect right back to transit control, who then can dispatch emergency crews as needed,” said TTC spokesman Stuart Green.

Elliott, however, said Thursday’s episode shows that seconds count. Firefighters arrived within five minutes and continued performing CPR.

The man is now recovering in hospital.

“Anybody in that situation, you want to help them the best you can and you’re gonna do whatever you can to help,” Elliott said.