TAMPA, Fla. — A harrowing attack led to a sweet moment Saturday between a bus operator and a good Samaritan who jumped in to help him.
Last week, police said a passenger attacked a HART bus driver, Schnaider Prophete, with a box cutter and mace.
Police said it left the operator in need of medical care to save his life, with injuries to his leg. John Phelps, another passenger on the bus, put himself between Prophete and his attacker.
“You’re my brother for life,” Phelps and Prophete told each other upon meeting for the first time since the incident.
The two each wanted to meet the other again. So Saturday afternoon, Prophete and dozens of other drivers gathered at Skipper’s Smokehouse, where Phelps works, and surprised him.
“I love you brother, I love you man,” they said, finding family in the wake of the brutal scene earlier this week.
“I just wanted to get to him, get the people off the bus and get that lunatic out of there so I could get back on the bus and take care of my friend here,” Phelps said.
Minutes into meeting, Prophete invited Phelps and his family for Thanksgiving. Phelps, vowed to be his guardian angel. Other drivers applauded, calling the Good Samaritan a hero.
“When I heard the voice coming out from the back of the bus in my mind I said, 'God sent an angel for me.' And he did what I’ve always been doing for other people in life always treat people well,” Prophete said.
“I’ve been trying to take every day at a time. He’s been on my mind the whole time,” Phelps said. “I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights worrying if he’s OK. And every driver I see I ask about him. It means a lot for me to see him today.”
The emotional meeting also brought calls for more protection for bus operators and to make sure it doesn’t happen to any other drivers again.
“I said, 'well he’s a prophet and he deserves a guardian angel' but after that I couldn’t contain my emotions either I had to cry, too. Because to see what was happening to him, it shouldn’t happen to anyone,” Phelps said. “I always imagine myself in a tight position and think about stuff like that, so I had to help him out. I’m not gonna let that happen. I thought about his fellow driver and what happened to him and I said it’s not gonna happen on my watch.”
Less than six months ago, a passenger fatally attacked HART bus driver Thomas Dunn.
HART has worked to install shields in its buses.
- HART bus driver attacked by passenger carrying box cutter
- 'Our job is never done': Army veteran who saved HART bus driver during attack shares his story
- 'The Lord was on my side that day': HART bus driver attacked on bus shares terrifying story
As of Tuesday, it said 104 out of the 180 buses had them. Now, installers have sent in two more people to double their weekly installations.
“A bus operator is just like a boat captain you’re supposed to be the last to come out and make sure everybody’s life is safe. But how can I save anybody if I don’t have the means to save myself,” Prophete said.
Despite the chaotic moments on Tuesday, Prophete and Phelps offered a moment of good for the dozens gathered to see their meeting.
“I’ll be your guardian angel,” Phelps told Prophete.
Skipper’s also gave Phelps a signed Lightning jersey and is treating him to a Tampa sports game of his choice.
A fundraiser has been started to help raise money for Prophete's medical bills. The fundraiser has a goal of $20,000.
Please have it in your heart to help us to help him, so he can fully recover without worrying losing his home next. The holidays are near, and he shouldn’t have to worry about what comes next. Every penny helps. Thank you from all of us.
As of Sunday afternoon, the fundraiser has raised $395.