5 years since gruesome Kelowna transit murder and witness still suffers without support | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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5 years since gruesome Kelowna transit murder and witness still suffers without support

Caesar Rosales died after being stabbed on a Kelowna city bus last October.
Image Credit: Global Okanagan (with permission)
October 31, 2019 - 6:00 PM

Barb Dawson was on the phone Oct. 30, 2014, when her bus made its regular stop behind the Marshall's store on Baron Road.

She heard a chorus of gasps, stood up, turned around and locked eyes with a man she'd never met before — Caesar Rosales. He had been stabbed and was bleeding heavily from his neck.

"I was looking at him and (we were) in a conversation with our eyes. He was saying he was scared and didn't want to die. And I was saying, 'I am scared, too' and I couldn't move... I couldn't even blink," she said.

"Then he fell. That's when we stopped looking at each other and (another bus passenger) Vince went to him. He said I need a towel or a sweater, so I gave him my sweater. Then he said, 'I need someone to physically help me so I went in and I started helping... until then, nobody was moving, we were all in shock."

Nothing that she or the others around her did at that moment is how she would have envisioned it.

"As much as you think, I would be a hero and that's how would I act in that situation—you know what, you'd probably freeze," she said.

Rosales died while she was trying to reassure him that help was on its way. She knew he would when she saw him lose consciousness.

READ MORE: Transit killer temporarily back in the community

"It was a horrible situation, I still think about it, it's in my thoughts every day... it plays over and over. It's crazy-making," she said.

"It affected my studies (at UBC) and my life."

Dawson still rides the bus, but always feels vulnerable. She won't expose her neck, for fear she'll be attacked and if she sees someone on drugs or drunk nearby she becomes hypervigilant.

"I want to make sure I can react if anything goes wrong," she said.

"I never thought of things like this before.... My mind flipped that day, I feel like someone took a flipper and flipped it."

She also thinks about the other 20-or-so passengers on the bus that night.

One worked at a local grocery store and she knows she still suffers from the memories of the attack.

The others she's never seen and Vince, in particular, is someone whose well-being she worries for.

Despite the trauma they suffered that night, there are no government services to help them through the aftermath.

"They had a counsellor come on the bus that night, but that was just someone doing their job," she said.

A police officer told them they should go "speak with someone" but when her thoughts became burdensome and she tried, she learned there were no service available.

Victim Services funded therapy is not extended to those who witness violent crimes — even if they're in the thick of it — unless they are friends of, or are related to, the victim, a victim's services representative confirmed.

She found some counselling from UBC, where she attends classes. It's clear that she needs more, however, and paying for it will be a struggle.

Dawson said she would have expected something from B.C. Transit, too — she's reached out to them already for some help —  but that's never happened.

"You look on the B.C. Transit website and they talk about the safety of their passengers, but the only safety improvements they've made in Kelowna are for the drivers," she said, referencing the Sept. 9 announcement that B.C. Transit will start retrofitting the 650 buses around the province in early 2020 with protective driver doors.

Dawson said that's all well and good, but bus "passengers are being left to watch out of each other" in increasingly unsafe-feeling circumstances.

Worsening safety levels are something bus drivers have spoken of as well, though the barriers are of some relief to them, if not Dawson.

She just wants to feel safe and she hasn't known how to make that happen since the bus rolled to a stop five years ago this week. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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