DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A former Votran bus driver said he was wrongly fired for protecting himself against an unruly passenger. He said the passenger threatened him multiple times before the fight turned physical and the company did nothing about it.
"I was just thinking 'protect myself and protect my passengers,'" Robert Stancheski said.
And that's exactly what Stancheski thought he was doing in August.
"There was no way, shape or form that I should have been considered being the aggressor," he said.
Stancheski has been a bus driver for more than 30 years and been with Votran for the past two and a half years.
Stancheski said the man verbally attacked him on two occasions, including racial slurs, and it was all because of a reduced-fare ticket.
"You either have to be under 18, so a minor, disabled with proof or a senior citizen. I asked him for ID. First thing out of his mouth was F-U," he said.
Then it turned physical.
Stancheski said he saw that man approach the bus, shook his head no and went looking for a supervisor. That's when the man tried pushing his way onto the bus.
"He told me you better get the F out my way and pushed me. When he pushed me, I grabbed him. We had a little tussle. I held him by the front door," he said.
The man then threatened to stab Stancheski.
"I didn't do anything to hurt him. All I did was grab him and controlled him until he calmed down," he said.
Stancheski let him go and searched for a supervisor again. But he couldn't find one, so he called his own to report the incident.
"He said as long as everybody's OK, and you feel OK, then you can continue in service," he said.
But two days later, Stancheski said, Votran fired him.
"They thought I was the aggressor and I put my hands on a passenger. Well, if the passenger puts his hands on me, I have the right to defend myself," he said.
Teamsters Local 385 union representative Gary Con said Votran is in the wrong.
"They did not support Robert in the workplace," Conroy said. "He told a supervisor what happened to him, the threat against him, the threat of violence. They took no action. It wasn't until he was attacked by this passenger, they felt that Robert was in the wrong."
Conroy said there will be a meeting with an arbitrator in April.
"I'm pretty confident that I'm going to win because I didn't do anything wrong," Stancheski said.
Volusia County represents Votran Public Bus System and said it does not comment on personnel issues.