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47 Passengers Robbed on Chartered Bus

October 19, 1987|PATRICK McDONNELL and ANTHONY PERRY | Times Staff Writers

VISTA, Calif. — Two men, at least one of them armed, boarded a Las Vegas-bound chartered bus as it left a recreation center here early Sunday and directed the driver to continue on as they robbed the 47 passengers--most of them elderly women planning a 24-hour gambling trip, authorities said.

While the bus cruised through the quiet residential streets, the bandits pocketed wallets, purses and cash, taking an estimated $3,800. They then ordered the driver to stop on a dead-end street and fled, San Diego County sheriff's deputies said.

Investigators said the robbers may have been picked up by accomplices in a 1985 or 1986 red Ford Thunderbird that was seen following the bus.

Deputies, who interviewed the passengers for hours after the robbery, were seeking two men described only as Latinos.

One woman fainted during the hijacking, but no one was injured, deputies said.

"We were going to Las Vegas to have a nice day and everything, and, all of a sudden, all this happens," one woman, who said she lost more than $250, told San Diego radio station KFMB.

Several area residents who spoke with the passengers said that the driver was apparently under the impression that the departing bandits had left a bomb in the bus.

One of the neighbors, quoting the driver, said one of the bandits warned: "Don't try anything. I've left a little surprise for you on the bus."

After the assailants fled, neighbors said, the driver hurriedly ordered the passengers off and drove the bus down a hill before abandoning it.

"They (the passengers) were all in pretty bad shape. They were in shock," said Patricia Borchmann, a Vista resident. "They stood in the middle of the street and consoled each other and said they were glad to be alive."

The bus was chartered from San Bernardino-based Roesch Lines.

Using witnesses' accounts, sheriff's deputies said they were preparing composite drawings of the suspects, who wore no masks but used gloves apparently in an attempt to avoid leaving fingerprints.

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