Legally blind man claims DART bus driver held him hostage

A frequent DART rider says he felt like he was held hostage by a DART bus driver who would not stop and let him off at his stop.

For DART passenger Bernard Pertee, the bus is his lifeline. But he says it was on a DART bus that he didn’t know what was going to happen to him.

Legally blind, Pertee depends on DART and their drivers to help him. But he claims last month that a driver literally held him hostage and ignored his pleas to let him off the bus at his usual stop.

DART board members heard Tuesday night about Pertee's story of a traumatic DART bus ride. He said the bus driver was even listening to music on his headphones so loudly that he could even hear it.

“I have limited vision during the daytime and hardly any at night,” he said.

Legally blind since birth, Pertee's only transportation is DART. He says when he tried to get off bus 516 at Singing Hills on January 19 around 7 p.m., he couldn’t get off.

“I stood up and said, ‘Sir, I need to get off at the church.’ And he said no and he kept driving,” Pertee said. “And there were two people standing at the bus stop. This was at night. One of the two people was my nephew who was meeting me to walk me home. The other was a poor passenger trying to catch that bus.”

Pertee says the driver ignored his pleas continuing north on Singing Hills. He says the driver didn’t stop until the bus stop near the intersection of Singing Hills and Ledbetter. It was five stops from where he wanted to get off.

DART says the onboard security camera system that would have recorded the incident apparently wasn’t recording.

“What we know is that there is no video that we have, and so that’s another thing we are trying to understand how that happened,” said DART Spokesperson Morgan Lyons. “There are a couple of different systems on board the bus. Should’ve worked. Didn’t work. We want to know what’s going on.”

Lyons says he is concerned about the failed equipment and says the driver was warned about his behavior of listening to music with headphones while driving. He says there is now a vigorous investigation.

“First of all, we're sorry about what happened,” Lyons said. “We have actually turned this over to DART police as well. They’re looking at it because his allegations are serious, and we're taking them seriously.”

“I’m trying to have this operator charged criminally,” Pertree said. “What he done to me was nothing less than what somebody could be arrested for today for having somebody in their vehicle and refusing to let them out.”

Lyons says the driver will be interviewed by police who came to the bus that night and eventually took Pertee home. The one key piece of evidence missing in this incident is the video recording that, for some reason, didn’t take.

Pertee says this is the first time he's been with the driver in question and the first time in all his years riding DART that he's had a problem with an operator.