SAN ANTONIO – A VIA Metropolitan Transit operator is under scrutiny after he dropped off two passengers with disabilities at an establishment that was closed.
A witness tried to step in to help. However, the driver allegedly drove off and refused to provide his name.
The incident, which was recounted in a Facebook post, happened Tuesday morning outside of Mr. and Mrs. G’s Restaurant on the city’s East Side.
Stann Jernigan is the manager at the restaurant. He said it was around 11:00 a.m. when he saw the driver of a VIAtrans van unload the women’s electric wheelchairs outside the restaurant.
“I explained to him that the restaurant (was) closed,” Jernigan said. “(The driver) said he got to leave, (and that) he got other deliveries to make. I (asked) ‘Can you put them on the bus (because) it’s hot out here?’ (The driver) said, ‘No, they can go somewhere and sit in the shade.’”
However, Jernigan said there was no shade.
“It was over 100 degrees out here,” Jernigan said. “Even in the shade, it was probably 90 degrees anyway.”
Jernigan insisted the driver help the women.
“I said, ‘Can you call the dispatcher and pick them up?’ He said, ‘No, they can do (that),’” Jernigan said.
However, VIA confirmed that is not the proper protocol for VIAtrans passengers.
“VIAtrans is a door-to-door service that we provide for passengers who have applied for and been approved due to mental and or physical disabilities,” said Dr. Lorraine Pulido said, spokesperson for VIA.
“The protocol was not followed,” Pulido said. “The protocol calls for the actual passenger to be dropped off. And if they’re being dropped off somewhere where the building is closed, then (the driver needs) to call the supervisor or the dispatcher to make alternate arrangements immediately.”
VIA has launched an investigation.
“The driver has been with us since December of 2020, and right now that particular driver is on disciplinary leave,” Pulido said. “We are currently conducting an investigation. After the investigation has concluded, then we can determine what further action needs to be taken.”
While the driver is being criticized for his lack of action, Jernigan is being praised on social media for doing the right thing.
“I brung ‘em inside, gave ‘em bottled water, and I turned the TV on for them,” Jernigan said. “We made multiple phone calls with their family members, as well as VIAtrans.”
“We do want to thank the employee from the restaurant for doing what he did,” Pulido said.
Viatrans eventually sent another vehicle to pick up the women.
“Luckily, an hour and 10 minutes later, another VIA bus came to pick them up and take them safely home,” Jernigan said.
Pulido said their customer service team reached out to the passengers involved and offered a complimentary VIAtrans ride.
“We’re going to do everything in our power to ensure it does not happen again,” Pulido said. “We want to reaffirm that VIA is committed to the highest quality of customer care, especially during these hot weather months. That’s part of our commitment to our community.”
While Jernigan hopes the driver is reprimanded for his actions, he doesn’t want him fired.
“I strongly suggest that driver should get proper training to conduct himself in a better professional manner,” Jernigan said. “He should have more kindness, understanding, compassion to all mankind, especially the elderly. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t even be here. But I don’t blame VIA because they probably did train him. It’s just that he (did) not follow the protocol. All I can say — in the world that we live in now, everybody should be more compassionate and be humble at all times.”