By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
An act of kindness from a stranger and the quick thinking of the Quay County Sheriff’s Office and Tucumcari School District aided 50 stranded passengers Thursday from a broken down Greyhound bus on Interstate 40 East of Tucumcari.
The Greyhound bus broke down around 10 a.m., 10 miles East of Tucumcari on I-40, said Sheriff Russell Shaffer.
Shaffer said a passenger called the Sheriff’s Office and asked about the protocol for stranded motorists. He said there is no current protocol for such a situation since Greyhound is a privately owned entity.
Shaffer said he made a few calls and sent a deputy to the bus to make contact with the bus driver. He said after assessing the situation, he contacted Dave Johnson at the Tucumcari School Administration Office in an attempt to arrange transportation for the passengers back to Tucumcari.
Johnson said it was an emergency situation and he made the call to send the driver and the bus. He said there are concerns with insurance purposes, but the school was the only entity in town that had the means to transport the passengers.
“It was all about being a good Samaritan,” Johnson said.
“It was a great gesture by the Sheriff’s Office to come out and check on us and the local school district to send a bus to bring the passengers back to town,” said Michael Gardner of Albuquerque.
Gardner said he and the passengers became restless after sitting on the side of the road for an hour, with no resolution to the situation coming from the driver. He said the driver initially refused to let them leave the bus and the driver offered a nonchalant response to what was occurring. “We are just going to have to wait here until a bus comes to get us,” Gardner said, quoting the driver.
The passengers were told of a possible wait time of as long nine hours until another Greyhound bus could retrieve them.
The bus suffered a “road failure” in Tucumcari en route from Albuquerque to Amarillo, Texas and driver followed proper procedure, which is to pull over the bus safely and immediately call for a relief bus to pick up customers and continue the schedule, said Lanesha Gipson, Greyhound spokesperson.
Gardner said he was on a tight schedule and needed to be in Houston, Texas, on Friday for a court appearance, explaining that he is engaged in an important legal proceeding.
The passengers were dropped off at the McStop fuel station and McDonald’s Restaurant at noon in Tucumcari where they waited for the replacement bus.
Janaya Alexander, of Phoenix, Arizona, was traveling with her three children to Minnesota to move in with her in-laws when the bus broke down.
Alexander said she is grateful for the efforts of the Quay County Sheriff’s Office and Tucumcari School District for getting the passengers off the side of the road. She said it was already starting to get hot, even though it was early in the morning. At 10 a.m., the temperature reported near the Tucumcari Airport five miles East of Tucumcari was 82 according to the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.
Gipson said the relief bus was dispatched from Amarillo and arrived at approximately 2:15 p.m.; the temperature at the time was 94 degrees.
Alexander said while the passengers were gathered under a tree for shade, a local rancher stopped by to see if they needed assistance. She said the rancher left and returned later with two cases of bottled water for passengers to drink while they waited.
“I don’t think anyone got the name of the rancher, but whoever he is we are eternally grateful for his generosity,” Alexander said.
Gardner said that none of the passengers knows if Greyhound is going to compensate them for the time they were stranded, and added that the Greyhound didn’t offer to pay for a meal or a drink while they waited for the second bus.
The passengers boarded the relief bus and departed Tucumcari at 2:30 p.m.