Bus hijacker overpowered by passengers; turned in by quick-thinking trucker

Rene Tankersley | 10/19/2001

Hijackers, be warned: Travelers will defend themselves if you try to hijack their bus, plane, train or truck. Across the country, this message is being made clear by passengers fighting off hijackers.

On Thursday, Oct. 18, the 48 passengers on a Greyhound bus in Salt Lake City were headed to Denver, CO, from Portland, OR, when a hijacker grabbed the steering wheel and threatened to wreck the bus, according to Sgt. Doug McCleve, public information officer for the Utah Department of Public Safety.

The bus driver, Gene Savage, kicked the man off the steering wheel and passengers jumped the would-be hijacker. The man allegedly had threatened passengers with a bomb, but no explosives were found on the bus. The brave actions of the passengers allowed bus driver Gene Savage to stop the bus.

As soon as the bus stopped, the man and his female accomplice jumped off the bus and flagged down a car. The driver of the car dropped the couple off at a nearby gas station, and then they stopped traffic and jumped into a truck. The fleeing couple told the truckdriver their lives were in danger, so he called 9-1-1 and stopped at the Sapp Brothers truckstop off I-215 in Salt Lake City, where they were arrested by the Utah Highway Patrol. Although McCleve could not release the trucker's name, he said the truckdriver did a "fantastic job."

Troy Matzek, 34, and Becky Hyde, 25, of Wichita, KS, were originally booked on state charges of terroristic threatening, assault and forgery. However, because the bus was traveling interstate, the case has been turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the U.S. Attorney's office for federal prosecution. The federal charges could carry stiffer consequences, added Sgt. McCleve.

With the heightened awareness since the September 11 terrorist attacks, several media have questioned whether this incident was terrorist related, but Sgt. McCleve says, "No."

"This was not terrorist related," he said. "It was an isolated incident with a man who probably had a mental breakdown."