‘I was just waiting for the bus to crash’: Tourists left shaken by dramatic trip to Uluru


A group of tourists say they’ll never return to Alice Springs after a trip to Uluru ended in a brawl between their driver and a pedestrian and an hours-long wait on the side of the road.

The group were returning from a day trip to Uluru at about 7pm on November 6 when the bus driver stopped to assist a car pulled over with its hazard lights flashing.

Those on the bus told the ABC a family appeared to be arguing by the car and a young man, who they say appeared intoxicated, stepped in front of the bus as it came to a halt. 

The driver stopped the bus on the Lasseter Highway, about 80 kilometres from Uluru, and got out to see what was happening.

“Many passengers were yelling to get back on the bus, he did not respond,” passenger Raylene Foster said.

The young man boarded the bus asking for a lift to Alice Springs. 

Footage of the incident shows the driver yelling for the man to get off.

Another passenger, Bianca Hammersley, who was seated at the front of the bus, said the driver then grabbed the man to push him out.

Passenger Bianca Hammersley was among those who witnessed the incident.(ABC News: Xavier Martin)

She said the two began to fight, falling out of the bus and hitting the ground hard.

The group told the ABC they tried to break up the fight and negotiated for the man to be driven to the next town.

‘Waiting for the bus to crash’

Tasmanian emergency nurse Courtney Hayes said the driver himself was showing signs of concussion, driving erratically and speaking aggressively to passengers.

She also said he had eye injuries and potential jaw and lip injuries.

“Should he have presented to a hospital, this would be a situation where he was unable to drive,” Ms Hayes said.

The passengers also said the man was complaining of sore ribs from the scuffle.

A blonde Caucasian woman wearing a bink shirt, looking at the camera with a neutral expression while standing outside

Ms Hayes says the driver exhibited a number of signs of concussion while driving and had lost his glasses.(ABC News: Xavier Martin)

Ms Foster said the driver had also lost his glasses during the altercation, and asked passengers to sit at the front of the bus to “be his vision”.

“There was an incident where there were around four cattle on the road that he didn’t see and passengers yelled out,” she said.

“At this point there was an absolute fear for our lives on the road, due to his inability to think and act rationally.”

“I was just waiting for the bus to crash,” Ms Hammersley said.

Police called as tourists stranded for hours

After dropping the young man at Curtin Springs, the bus continued to Erldunda Roadhouse, where police were called.

Ms Foster said passengers were forced to wait almost two hours without air-conditioning or lights for another company driver to pick up the group.

Ms Hammersley said days after the incident, she and the others in her group still feel shaken. Some are vowing never to return to Alice Springs.

“I’m not sleeping very well … waking up in the middle of night just hearing the screaming,” she said.

A group of women embracing each other in a dry park in Central Australia.

Some passengers are saying they will never return to Alice Springs after the incident.(ABC News: Xavier Martin)

In a statement, Emu Run Experience said the bus driver had stopped because he witnessed a “violent assault and domestic violence situation” being perpetrated on the roadside.

“[The] driver appropriately assisted to de-escalate the matter and in the course of this action was physically assaulted by an intoxicated individual,” the company said.

However, passengers said there didn’t appear to be any physical violence within the group at the car and it didn’t appear to be a domestic violence situation.

Some of the tourists on board were so shaken by the incident they wrote a letter to management outlining their concerns about the driver’s behaviour and risks to their safety.

In an email response, seen by the ABC, an Emu Run Experience manager apologised to the group and said an investigation was underway “to ensure this does not happen again”.

Uluru

The bus was travelling from Uluru to Alice Springs when the incident happened.

“We have never had something like this happen in the six years I have been with Emu Run,” the email said.

Emu Run told the ABC it had reported the matter to NT Worksafe and NT Police.

NT Police said “no complaints” had been made to police from either party involved.

The incident comes off the back of a disappointing tourism season for caravan parks and operators across Central Australia, as cost of living pressures, soaring airfares and crime concerns continue to bite.



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