Kids will be kids – carefree, candid, and just about all of the time, curious.

And now, in an unexpected series of events, these turned out to be the very characteristics that helped bring a school bus hijacking in the United States to a halt, namely in a bunch of school children simply pestering their hijacker by “asking lots of questions”.

According to news outlets, the incident unfolded on Thursday 6th May 2021 when an army trainee boarded a school bus in South Carolina, before pointing a rifle at the driver and ordering him to drive to the next town.

The hijacker then ordered all 18 students on board the bus to stand at the front of the vehicle.

However, this proved to be the man’s greatest downfall.

According to reports from authorities, once at the front of the bus, the children began overwhelming the gunman with countless questions, to the point where he became evidently “frustrated”.

“The kids were asking questions. ‘Are you gonna hurt us?’ ‘Are you a soldier?’ ‘Are you a bus driver?’ So they were being kids, they were being kids,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said, speaking at a press conference.

“I think that added to the frustration that he had,” he added.

In fact, so frustrated with the kids’ questions did the gunman become that a mere six minutes later, he let everyone off the bus.

Perhaps over it, he then drove a short distance before exiting the bus himself and abandoning the vehicle.

School Bus Driver Praised for Remaining Calm and Putting Safety of Kids First During Hijacking

Following the incident, footage from on board the bus was released, revealing the man dressed in a T-shirt with the word “ARMY” printed on the front.

Holding his gun, the man can be heard demanding instructions to the bus driver: “Close the door, drive, drive!”

Despite this, it has been revealed he told the bus driver he “didn’t want to hurt him”.

The man has since been identified as 23-year-old Jovan Collazo, a trainee at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.

It is understood Mr Collazo left Fort Jackson after just three weeks of training.

He was arrested and charged over the incident, facing allegations of car-jacking, armed robbery and kidnapping.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Lott praised the bus driver for his calm handling of the situation.

“I’ll give the bus driver credit. He kept his cool. He didn’t overreact. He didn’t get excited. He kept his cool enough that kept the situation calm,” he said.

“And I will tell you his main concern was the safety of those kids.

“There was six minutes, six minutes, they were traumatised. Six complete minutes that the bad guy was on the bus with a gun.”

According to the beliefs of Fort Jackson base commander, Brigadier General Milford Beagle Jr, Mr Collazo was overcome with homesickness, which motivated him to scale a tall fence and flee Fort Jackson through a wood before he hijacked the bus.

“As he left the bus, one thing he was trying to do… was trying to acquire new clothes and a ride, which we assume would have been to a bus station, the airport, train station in order to make it home,” General Beagle Jr said, speaking to NBC News.

“There is nothing that leads us to believe – through his counselling, through anything in his screening records coming in – that this had anything to do with harming others, harming himself.”

Fortunately, nobody was harmed in the incident.

It is understood the bus driver and the students, were headed to Forest Lake Elementary School in Columbia.

Car Jacking Offences in New South Wales

Car-jacking, which is also referred to as “stealing a motor vehicle or vessel with assault or with an occupant on board”, is a criminal offence.

It is also understood as a stealing offence.

If you are in NSW, the law on car-jacking is outlined in in section 154C of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which makes clear that an offence takes place where a person:

  • assaults another person with intent to take a motor vehicle or vessel and, without having the consent of the owner or person in lawful possession of it, takes and drives it, or takes it for the purpose of driving it, or
  • without having the consent of the owner or person in lawful possession of a motor vehicle or vessel, takes and drives it, or takes it for the purpose of driving it, when a person is in or on it.

In NSW, car-jacking carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in jail, with a three-year standard non-parole period.

However, where the aforementioned offence of car-jacking is committed “in circumstances of aggravation”, the maximum penalty increases 14 years in jail.

“Circumstances of aggravation” include any or all of the following:

  • the alleged offender is in the company of another person or persons
  • the alleged offender is armed with an offensive weapon or instrument
  • the alleged offender intentionally or recklessly inflicts actual bodily harm on any person.

By Sahar Adatia.

Published on 07/07/2022

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