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Winnipeg review security footage of fatal bus driver stabbing

Chief Danny Smyth said more details will be released if investigators find enough to lay charges on 22-year-old suspect in custody.

A photo of Winnipeg Transit driver Irvine Fraser, 58, posted on Facebook. Fraser died following an attack early Tuesday morning.

Contributed / Facebook

A photo of Winnipeg Transit driver Irvine Fraser, 58, posted on Facebook. Fraser died following an attack early Tuesday morning.

Police have released scant details surrounding the fatal stabbing of a Winnipeg Transit bus driver, but investigators are working on piecing it all together.

What they do know is that 58-year-old Winnipeg Transit employee Irvine Fraser reached the end of his route and late shift shortly before 2 a.m. Tuesday morning.

He parked his bus at a transit stop on Dafoe Road West near Gillson Street in the heart of the University of Manitoba campus, at which point he was “alone on the bus” with just “one passenger,” according to police chief Danny Smyth.

A confrontation ensued; Based on Fraser’s injuries, police believe the lone passenger must have produced an “edged weapon,” and assaulted the bus driver.

Police and first responders found Fraser near pools of blood and badly wounded. He was rushed to the hospital in “critical condition,” but couldn’t be saved and died shortly later.

Smyth said he can’t definitively say what led up to the attack, but that investigators are working on figuring that out.

Fortunately, whatever transpired was most likely caught on camera. All Winnipeg Transit buses have four or five closed circuit security cameras on board.

Smyth said investigators need to review the footage "that would have been captured” before he can say any more about what took place.

“I think it’s important investigators have some time to determine what happened so we can put this into context,” he said.

For now, he can confirm that police were on the scene “within moments” of the initial emergency call, and “witnesses on the campus” helped point responding officers in the direction of a potential suspect who fled the scene.

Members of the police service’s K-9 unit pursued the suspect, eventually catching up with him and making an arrest as he tried to cross the frozen Red River near campus.

A 22-year-old male is currently in police custody.

Smyth said he will shed more light on the incident at a subsequent briefing, “assuming investigators gather enough to lay charges.”

Despite his own admittance that “this will spark debate over transit safety,” Smyth said it’s critical to wait on the results of the investigation.

“Before we go there, I think it’s important that the investigators do their job to determine the circumstances,” he said.

Smyth said one incident should not discourage families from riding the bus, as he still believes “our public transit is safe.” 

"He was always smiling." 

Richard Derry, a retired bus driver of 30 years who worked with Fraser, remembers his former colleague as a "chipper and upbeat guy" with a "cheerful attitude."

"He was always smiling."

Derry said he was "appalled and shocked" at the news.

"The Winnipeg Transit family is horrified at the events that took place last night," he said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Irvine's family and friends."

The city's chief transportation and utilities officer said this is the first time a driver has been killed in an altercation.

"This is a very difficult day," Dave Wardrop told reporters at a city hall press conference.

Wardrop said that counselling services will be made available to employees.

He also committed to working with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 to make buses safer for drivers. 

"The top priority for me now is to look at what we can do to improve safety and security," he said. 

John Danakas, a University of Manitoba spokesperson, said "the suspect (in custody) has no evident association" with the school.

He added that counselling services have been made available to students.

Further tragedy avoided

One K-9 unit officer involved in the arrest returned to the river to investigate further, but broke through the ice. General patrol officers were able to get a rope to the officer and pull him to safety. He was not injured.

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