CLEVELAND -- For the third time in two months, an RTA bus driver is attacked on the job. This time, the bus operator was taken to the hospital for his injuries.
Greg Vranekovic was punched in the face around 3:50 p.m. Thursday. He was treated and released from University Hospitals Case Medical Center.
"He punched me repeatedly, he came around the partition, I didn't see him and then he ran off the bus," Vranekovic said.
Vranekovic left the emergency room with a sore jaw, injured nose and a cut inside his mouth.
Just before 4:00 p.m., he was driving the Number 15 bus down Union Avenue on Cleveland's eastside.
"When he opens up the front door to let the people off the front you just hear somebody coming through the back, so I'm thinking he probably got his foot in to get him to open to door, so when he gets up on the bus, he was like 'ahhh, you caught my foot in the bus," said passenger Raquel, who did not want us to reveal her last name.
He said the driver told the man to go to the front to pay his fare, as the bus was approaching East 113th Street.
"He goes to the front and try to motion like he was gonna spit on the man, cause I heard somebody say something like 'ah c'mon man, you trippin' so when he gets closer, it's crowded, now I don't see anything, I just hear somebody say 'oh, he hit him!" she said.
"I was just fortunate and lucky enough to keep my foot on the brake, these people gotta understand I'm driving a big machine out there and if my foot comes off the brake, I get knocked out, that's it, we're gonna go rolling," said Vranekovic.
Just last month, an RTA driver had hot coffee thrown on him. And who can forget the video from September when a driver punched an unruly passenger after she allegedly spit on him and choked him. He was charged with misdemeanor assault, she was charged with disorderly conduct. RTA fired Artis Hughes on Tuesday.
"You gotta bring Brother Hughes back because this is becoming an epidemic on our drivers and it's not fair to them to take this abuse while they're out there doing their job," said union representative William Nix, Sr.
Vranekovic, who is part-time and has only been on the job a few months, says he actually thought twice about defending himself, because of the Artis Hughes case.
"I was trained that once the seatbelt comes off that's trouble...once I unhook the seatbelt and argue with a passenger then that's trouble," he said.
"We're tired of this and my members are tired, my brothers and sisters are not gonna sit there and keep on taking this abuse when we sitting in that seat," said Nix.
The man who punched the driver remained on the run Thursday night.
Vranekovic says despite his ordeal, he plans to return to driving the bus when he is cleared to return to work.