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Quebec man charged after bus carrying passengers makes unplanned trip

A man is facing charges including vehicle theft and impaired driving after an intercity bus loaded with passengers made an unscheduled departure from Trois-Rivieres, Que., Wednesday night.

Police say people waiting to travel to Montreal were unaware their bus had been stolen as it pulled out of the downtown terminal. But they did remark on the poor driving as the bus jumped the sidewalk several times during the brief ride.

A 39-year-old Quebec City man was arrested and was scheduled to appear in court Thursday on charges of vehicle theft, impaired driving, dangerous driving and refusing to stop for police. Trois-Rivieres police said the suspect had been arrested the previous night for impaired driving.

Police said a driver with the Orleans bus line was outside waiting to leave for Montreal when he saw his vehicle back out of its parking spot and leave the lot at around 10:15 p.m. He immediately called police to report the theft.

Patrollers quickly located the stolen bus, which was driving the wrong way on a one-way street. The driver did not stop, and officers followed as he drove several blocks through downtown Trois-Rivieres.

After hitting a city bus that was blocking its path and jumping the sidewalk, the bus ended up back at the terminal and the driver was arrested when he pulled into the parking lot.

According to a police spokesman, the arresting officers detected “obvious symptoms of impairment from drugs.”

As police boarded the bus to check on the passengers, they discovered that they had been unaware of the drama.

“When the officers asked if they had noticed anything unusual, some of them said they thought the driver drove badly — he jumped the sidewalk two or three times — but they didn’t think much of it,” Sgt. Luc Mongrain said.

“They just thought they were leaving. They saw the bus was moving but not who was at the wheel. They took it for granted it was the bus driver.”

Police said the suspect is a truck driver with a Class 1 license, which in theory would qualify him for driving a passenger bus.

Pierre Saint-Arnaud, The Canadian Press