LONG BEACH (CBSLA) – Dozens of passengers headed to a Halloween event aboard the Queen Mary Thursday night panicked and jumped off their shuttle bus — mistakenly believing they were being kidnapped — when in fact their driver had gotten completely lost, police said.
The driver, identified as 60-year-old James Lee of Los Angeles, was later arrested on unrelated battery charges after allegedly getting into an altercation with one of the male passengers.
According to Long Beach police, at approximately 8 p.m., Lee was driving a private bus contracted to transport guests to a Queen Mary Dark Harbor event when he got lost in the city of Carson.
The bus was carrying between 20 and 30 passengers, police said, who had been picked up from the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach for what was supposed to be a quick two-minute jaunt to the Queen Mary. However, the bus somehow ended up in Carson.
Several of the passengers got confused, believing they were being kidnapped, and confronted Lee, police said.
The mayhem and chaos was caught on cell phone video, as passengers can be heard screaming at the driver to stop the bus and open the doors. They then began to hop off of the bus via its emergency exits.
Twenty-year-old Ashia Souder, one of the passengers who jumped off, described the experience to CBS2.
“I don’t remember getting to the window, I just remember I was suddenly there, and I was halfway out, and I still had the phone to my ear, and I had my backpack on… and the bus started moving,” And the window had hit my thigh on the way out and, when we started moving I just let go. And I dropped to the ground and I rolled. And then I just got up and ran.”
That prompted Lee to pull over into a gas station at the intersection of East Del Amo Boulevard and South Central Avenue so the rest of the passengers could exit.
Meanwhile, Long Beach police officers and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies had responded to the bus on a 911 call of a possible kidnapping.
By Friday morning, police clarified that the incident was not a kidnapping.
One of the men aboard the bus told police that he had been assaulted by Lee. However, Lee told officers that the man had previously attempted to board the bus with an open alcoholic drink, prompting an argument between the two.
Lee was booked and later released on battery charges pending an investigation, police said. What caused him to get so lost was not immediately confirmed.
The Dark Harbor is an annual Halloween haunt which takes place aboard the Queen Mary, which is a permanently moored ship and tourist attraction in the Port of Long Beach.
Souder said the Queen Mary was apologetic and offered shuttle riders VIP passes to the last day of Dark Harbor, which is Friday night.
The Queen Mary issued the following statement to CBS2 Friday:
“The safety and security of our guests are paramount. We are working with all parties involved to learn more about the incident with this vendor, and will provide updates as more information develops.”