msnbc.com news services
updated 1/4/2011 6:50:16 PM ET 2011-01-04T23:50:16

Greyhound bus passengers who claim drivers abandoned them in a northern Ontario town because of snow-closed roads say they're thinking about lawsuits.

What was supposed to be a 15-minute rest stop and driver change at 3 a.m. Sunday for two busloads of westbound passengers on the Trans-Canada Highway turned into a 14-hour ordeal in White River. The town of 840 population lies about 615 miles northwest of Toronto, nearly halfway to Winnipeg and 1,500 miles east of Calgary, destination for many of the travelers.

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The bus company acknowledged possible lack of communications, but passengers say they can't get over shabby treatment.

“It was just a brutal experience,” Paul Hitchin told The Canadian Press on Tuesday after arriving in Calgary. “I’ve never seen a company do something like that to people and not care any more.”

Hitchin and others said that drivers of two buses told them Sunday afternoon in White River that roads were closed to the west and to sit tight.

After that, they told Canadian news outlets, they got little or no information.

“They basically left us there for hours and didn’t tell us anything,” passenger Kevin Hitchin, 30, told the Calgary Sun. The delay made him late for a construction job in Calgary after he left Barrie, Ont., on Saturday for the 2,050-mile trip.

Patrick Moran, on his way to Fort McMurray, Alberta, from Grimsby, Ontario, told the Toronto Star his driver’s last words to passengers: “The roads are closed, sit tight.”

“They abandoned us,” said Moran, 19. “They didn’t say another word to us until 1 p.m.”

The passengers passed the time on the buses — where the stench from the lavatories increased by the hour — or in nearby coffee shops, the Sun reported. Some said they paid $80 for a night at a local motel.

Passenger Patrick Young told the Sun he hadn’t received any explanation for the hold-up by the time he reached Calgary from Montreal, a 2,300-mile trip.

“Greyhound is seriously dropping the ball by the way they stranded two busloads of people,” he said.

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Young said Greyhound eventually offered a full $210 refund but added he might seek more, the Sun said.

“If you’re not going to accommodate us at least say there’s a motel here. We were just left there,” Lauriann Keane, traveling to Edmonton, told the Star. 

After roads opened, buses from Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., arrived with replacement drivers Sunday afternoon, the Star said. The two buses pulled out around 5:30 p.m.

Greyhound spokeswoman Bonnie Bastian told the Sun the buses didn’t proceed because the highway was closed because of heavy snow.

“We do apologize for the inconvenience but we won’t put our buses on the road if it’s unsafe for passengers and drivers,” she said.

She said there appears to have been a breakdown in communications between Greyhound staff and customers in White River. She said compensation would be determined on an individual basis.

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