A passenger repeatedly stabbed and then decapitated a young man aboard a Greyhound bus travelling through Manitoba overnight in what appears to be a random attack, witnesses told CBC News.
The RCMP would not confirm the report, only saying that a homicide took place about 18 kilometres west of Portage la Prairie, Man., late Wednesday on a bus driving along the Trans-Canada Highway.
About 37 passengers and a driver were aboard the bus en route to Winnipeg from Edmonton, according to a Greyhound spokesperson.
Passenger Cody Olmstead, 21, told CBC News he had smoked a cigarette earlier in the trip with the victim, whom he described as a man in his late teens or early 20s. The victim got on the bus in Edmonton, he said.
"He just said he was going to Winnipeg … going home, that's where he was from."
Garnet Caton, who was sitting in the seat in front of the victim, said he saw the attacker stab his seatmate, a young man sleeping with his headphones on.
Caton said he heard a "blood-curdling scream" and turned around to see the attacker holding a large "Rambo" hunting knife above the victim, "continually stabbing him in the chest area."
"He must have stabbed him 50 times or 60 times," said Caton.
"Like, just everywhere, arms, legs, neck, chest, guts, wherever he could swing it, he got it," said Olmstead.
"It looked kind of like a scuffle or an argument, you know, and then somebody's, like, 'Knife! Knife! Run!' so I was running up the alleyway, slapping people telling them to get going, move, get off the bus. I got pushed over, some lady got pushed over, I was just making sure everybody was OK, and we all got off the bus," said Olmstead
As panicked passengers fled the bus, "the attacker was over top of the victim … continually cutting him. I think the victim was gone at that point," Caton said.
Trio tried to check on victim
Caton, the driver and a trucker who had stopped at the scene later boarded the vehicle to see if the victim was still alive.
"When we came back on the bus, it was visible at the end of the bus he was cutting the guy's head off and pretty much gutting him up," said Caton.
The attacker ran at them, Caton said, and they ran out of the bus, holding the door shut as he tried to slash at the trio.
When the attacker tried to drive the bus away, the driver disabled the vehicle, Caton said.
"While we were watching the door, he calmly walks up to the front with the head in his hand and the knife and just calmly stares at us and drops the head right in front of us," said Caton.
"They did an awesome thing, holding him in there, because if not, what would have happened?" said Olmstead.
Acted 'like he was a robot'
Caton described the attacker as surprisingly calm. "It was like he was at the beach or something. There was no rage in him. He wasn't swearing or cursing or anything. It was just like he was a robot or something."
Police cruisers arrived about 10 minutes after the attack began, he estimates, and officers began directing passengers to school buses to take them to a hotel in Brandon.
"While we were waiting on the side of the road, [the attacker] was taunting the police with the head in his hand," said Caton.
A six-year-old and other children were among the passengers who saw the horrific incident unfold, said Caton.
"It was pretty traumatic," he said, adding that some passengers said they have been unable to sleep or eat since it happened.
Bev Cumming, head of acute care services for the Brandon Regional Health Authority, said chaplains and psychiatric nurses have been working with dozens of passengers on the bus since they arrived in Brandon.
"When you see something as horrifying as that, the brain locks on to those images. It's very difficult to release those images," Cumming said.
"The assistance that people will get will be along the lines of coping in the immediate phase, learning what to do to reduce the profound effect this experience will have."
Investigation is in 'full motion': minister
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day commented on the killing, saying that like most Canadians, he was horrified to hear witness accounts of the homicide.
"The horrific nature of it is probably one of a kind in Canadian history," he told reporters late Thursday morning in Lévis, Que.
The minister said he didn't want to say anything that would compromise the investigation, but "I can assure people that everything is in full motion and momentum to getting to the bottom of this incident."
Questioned about whether weapons regulations should be put into place for buses, Day said it would be premature to look at such precautionary measures but added that the legal process will be followed as "aggressively as possible."