Man charged as cabbies, Sikhs mourn burned bus driver
Soulful, beautiful prayers from a centuries-old religion ring out in sadness, but there’s an undercurrent of anger in the wake of a horrifying fire attack police struggled to explain.
More than 100 cab drivers, many from the Sikh community, chant and dip heads in unison, a tribute to much-loved bus driver Manmeet Sharma, also known as Manmeet Alisher.
At 29 the actor, singer, community man was due to be married.
Instead, he died in a bus blaze so fierce it blew out the driver-side window and burned to death a man who was “larger than life”.
At 9.05am, the 125 bus pulled up outside the Moorvale shops in the centre of Moorooka, in Brisbane’s south, just as it does dozens of times a day.
Three passengers stepped on, joining six men, women and children already inside but there was something different about the third.
Police allege a man threw an “incendiary device” on 29-year-old Manmeet, burning him alive.
The bus driver “stood little chance”.
“Gigantic” flames spilled from the window, smoke filled the bus and the fire took hold rapidly, trapping six passengers on board.
“Please open the door, please open the door”, they screamed.
Shocked onlookers, more used to a community where laughing, smiling groups gather in the street, stopped, looked, wondered what was going on and responded.
Aguek Nyok, the taxi driver who’d come down for a haircut, has been rightly labelled a hero for his next acts.
Once, twice, three times he pushed and kicked at the back door that turned passengers into prisoners.
Clair Savage witnessed the whole thing, as did bus CCTV cameras, with footage now in the hands of police.
“I just said to him ‘you just saved people’s lives’,” she said.
He was a hero, according to Ms Savage, police Superintendent Jim Keogh, Commissioner Ian Stewart.
But “everybody can do that”, according to Mr Nyok.
“You help if you could. You do something if you can.”
The passengers were taken to hospital but, likely thanks in large part to the 31-year-old’s actions, were only treated for smoke inhalation.
Late Friday night police charged 48-year-old Anthony Donahue with one count each of murder and arson and 11 counts of attempted murder in relation to the incident.
A visibly shaken Lord Mayor Graham Quirk called Friday, October 28, a sad day for the council.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk mourned a week “filled with tragedy”.
Mourners came and went throughout the day, paying tribute to Mr Sharma, a man everyone in Brisbane’s tight-knit Punjabi community seemingly knew, and loved.
Just before 5.30pm, 100, maybe 200 Brisbane cab drivers arrived to mourn Manmeet, who drove cabs instead of buses until a few months ago, and to make a point.
“I woke up to this news and I don’t feel like working to be honest,” taxi driver Manjot Sidhu said, describing the departed as a singer, the host of a radio show, a “larger than life” man who everybody knew.
“I don’t feel safe anymore doing what I do now.”
Another cabby went further, bailing up Moorooka Ward councillor Steve Griffiths to lay the blame for the tragedy on “lack of action from police and government”.
Cr Griffiths promised to take the issue to council and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk but the cabby, known as Satti to many, said he’d heard it all before.
The Sikh community will lead prayers again on Saturday at 5.30pm.
Man accused of Moorooka bus driver murder ‘numb’ in court
The lawyer for the man accused of killing a Brisbane bus driver on Friday morning has described his client as ‘numb’ during his appearance in court on Saturday morning.
Anthony O’Donohue, 48, did not apply for bail when he briefly appeared in the Brisbane Arrest Court.
Defence lawyer Adam Magill said he held concerns for his client’s mental health.
“He’s numb, I don’t think he’s feeling anything at this point in time,” Mr Magill said.
“He’s trying to come to terms with what happened himself.”
During Mr O’Donohue’s appearance in court, police requested the names of complainants and witnesses be suppressed and the magistrate agreed.
“Because they had so many different people to talk to at the incident, a few got away,” Mr Maggill said.
“So they are in the process of identifying everybody, you can imagine it would have been mayhem there, so they did the best they could.”
Mr O’Donohue was charged late on Friday night over the murder of Manmeet Alisher, also known as Manmeet Sharma, a 29-year-old bus driver who was a prominent figure in Brisbane’s Indian community.
The accused was charged with one count each of murder and arson as well as 11 counts of attempted murder. He will remain in custody until his case returns to court on November 21.
Brisbane Times, with AAP