Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Abducted bus driver tricks hijacker after 200-mile journey

A school bus driver was hijacked at gunpoint in Gardena early Wednesday morning but escaped at a rest stop in the San Joaquin Valley before her abductor was captured nearby, authorities said.

The driver, whose name was not released, was unharmed but "shaken," authorities said. She was alone on the bus when it was carjacked.

More than four hours into the ordeal, she told her kidnapper she was diabetic and needed to use the restroom, persuading him to let her pull into a rest stop in Coalinga, about 200 miles from Gardena, authorities said.

She took the key to the bus and got help from a couple, who called 911.

About an hour later and 10 miles away, California Highway Patrol officers arrested Christopher Lee Andrews, 29, of Los Angeles, on a highway off-ramp.

Andrews matched the carjacker's description and had with him an Airsoft pistol, a toy gun that looks real but shoots plastic pellets, according to CHP public affairs officer Steven Schuh.

Schuh said Andrews also had the bus driver's checkbook with him. "He had threatened her that since he had her information, that if anything happened to him or she ran away, he knew where she lived," Schuh said. "That's probably why she was so shook up."

Andrews is on parole and was wanted on a carjacking warrant, Schuh added.

The driver was able to identify Andrews as her abductor, according to Lt. Toby Rien of the Fresno County Sheriff's Department. He will be booked in Los Angeles County, Rien said.

The driver for First Student, which contracts with the Los Angeles Unified School District, was about to start her route at 4:50 a.m. when someone put what she thought to be a gun to her head and ordered her to drive to Bakersfield.

Apparently, Rien said, she missed the turnoff to Interstate 99 from Interstate 5 and bypassed Bakersfield.

LAUSD would not disclose which schools were on the driver's route. A message left with a First Student representative was not returned.

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