Updated Thu. Jul. 31 2008 4:05 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
Police in Winnipeg said Thursday they do not know what triggered a vicious attack on a Greyhound bus the night before that led to the beheading of a passenger.
Witnesses say a man was stabbed to death and then decapitated in what appears to be a random act of violence on board the bus that was en route to Winnipeg late Wednesday.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon, RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve Colwell said a 40-year-old suspect is in custody and police were preparing to interview him. No charges have been laid.
Colwell would not confirm passenger reports that a man repeatedly stabbed his seat-mate before beheading him.
He said passengers had already left the bus when officers arrived at the scene near Portage la Prairie, Man. He added that police apprehended the suspect when he tried to escape the bus by jumping out a window.
Colwell said the actions of the passengers and driver may have prevented any other attacks from occurring.
"It's not something that happens regularly on a bus," said Colwell. "You're sitting there enjoying your trip and then all of a sudden somebody gets stabbed. I imagine it would be pretty traumatic ... the way they acted was extraordinary."
"They were very brave. They reacted swiftly, calmly in exiting the bus and as a result nobody else was injured."
Shocked witnesses said the victim, described as between the ages of 18 to 20, was sleeping with his head against the window when the attack occurred.
Garnet Caton, who was sitting in front of the victim, heard the commotion and turned around thinking he was going to witness a fight.
Caton told CTV News that once he realized what was going on he screamed: "Stop the bus, somebody's getting stabbed, everyone get the hell off."
The bus driver pulled over on a section of the east-bound Trans-Canada Highway -- about 15 kilometres west of Portage la Prairie, Man -- and many of the 37 passengers began to flee the bus.
Caton gathered a small group of people to go back and help the victim, said CTV's Murray Oliver in Winnipeg.
"They returned to the back of the bus to find that the person who was stabbing the person in the neck had now sawed off the head of (the victim)."
The man, with the head in one hand and the butcher knife in the other, then tried to attack the other passengers, said Oliver.
The group was able to exit the bus and slammed the door behind them.
The man then stabbed the door with his knife but was unable to break through and get off the bus. Eventually, he attempted to start up the bus to drive away but the operator had hit a switch, disabling the vehicle.
Oliver said a truck driver then arrived at the scene and handed out wrenches and crowbars to several men. The small group gathered around the door to the bus and prevented the man from exiting until police arrived.
RCMP eventually arrested the man after a standoff lasting several hours, said Oliver.
Witnesses said the suspect was tall, large and wearing sunglasses, even though it was dark.
Abby Wambaugh, media relations spokeswoman for Greyhound, said the company is now working with Transport Canada to review bus security.
She called the situation tragic but said travelling by bus is still "the safest mode of transportation in the country."
Wambaugh also said Greyhound is fully co-operating with the RCMP investigation.
Passengers will be escorted to Winnipeg once they are interviewed by RCMP, said Wambaugh.
Once there, Greyhound will provide counselling for any passengers who want the service, she said.
Meanwhile, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said Thursday he was shocked when he heard about the incident.
He said it was "probably one-of-a-kind in Canadian history."
The minister said he's not entertaining any notion of registering knives as dangerous weapons given that millions of kitchen knives alone are sold annually.