A jobsworth bus driver was slammed after he barred a disabled World War Two veteran from getting on board with his wheelchair – because of health and safety fears.
Frail Owen Nugent, 80, was left stranded by the roadside after the driver told him the kerb was too low for him to operate the bus’ mechanical ramp to give him access.
The driver told Mr Nugent to “run” 500 yards to the bus station where he said the kerb was high enough to use the lowering platform but shockingly he drove off before he got there.
Mr Nugent, a former soldier who guarded Nazi prisoners of war in Berlin at the end of World War Two, was forced to wait a further 30 minutes in sub-zero temperatures for another bus.
He tried to catch the 101 First Bus service to his home in the village of Tittensor, Staffs., from the Gatehouse Theatre in Stafford, after a family trip to the pantomime on January 3.
Mr Nugent, who suffers from emphysema, fumed: “I was a soldier and guarded war criminals after World War Two and I have never come across such maliciousness as that obnoxious young man showed me and my family.
“It was about five in the evening, the bus came after about 25 minutes but he refused to lower the ramp or lower the bus.
“He said he couldn’t because it was against the bus company’s health and safety policy.
“I thought he was joking at first but I could tell by the look in his eyes he was deadly serious.
“It’s a very low kerb and he simply said I had to ‘run down’ to the bus station which is about 500 yards away.
“He said he would lower the ramp there but when my son asked if he would be waiting for us, he said ‘I might be’ with a sardonic grin.
“I was appalled with his attitude. We were stunned.
“We had to run to try to catch him before we left. It was very undignified.
“Of course, we arrived just in time to see the 101 bus disappearing around a corner.
“We had no choice but to wait another half an hour for the next bus.
“He was a young lad and it was strange attitude for a bus driver.
“We’ve had lots of other drivers and they’ve always been fine.”
Mr Nugent had treated wife Jean, 72, son Mark, 47, and his wife Tina, 43, and five-year-old daughter Fay to watch the panto ‘Beauty and the Beast’ before they tried to catch a bus home.
Eventually another bus arrived and the driver expressed shock at his colleague’s attitude towards Mr Nugent.
The retired roofer, who has three grown-up children and seven grandchildren, added: “The driver who came to pick us up on the next bus said he had no excuse.
“He said the other driver had no right to leave us standing there.
“He said it was a perfect spot to lower the bus and he should have done it for us.
“I don’t want the bloke to lose his job over it, but the contempt he showed for me and my family was downright disgraceful. He needs a lesson in common decency.”
Owen, who was in hospital with a lung infection just before Christmas, joined the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards in 1952 and served until 1956.
The former mine worker was sent to Berlin in Germany – where he was tasked with guarding Nazi soldiers.
A spokesperson for the First Bus service, Ady Culpin, has since apologised to the family.
He said: “We apologise for any inconvenience caused through the alleged incident and we will be undertaking a full investigation into the matter.”
First Bus yesterday confirmed it was up to drivers to decide whether a kerb was high enough to use the lowering platform.
Spokesman Ady Culpin said: “Until we’ve spoken to the driver concerned we don’t know the circumstances at that particular bus stop.
“If it’s an old kerb that has not been raised, it may be more difficult because the wheelchair would need to be lifted and the driver might not deem that safe.
“I don’t think the driver has been interviewed yet to establish the circumstances of the incident but that will take place.”