Two 17-year-olds found themselves stranded on a road trip from Auckland to Whitianga after a bus “took off” with their luggage still onboard.
Nathan Willoughby and his friend Aidan Kohing were travelling via InterCity bus services on January 25.
The first half of the trip was smooth enough, but it all turned to custard when the pair changed buses at Thames to complete their journey.
When one passenger disembarked at Hikuai, Kohing claims he asked the bus driver if he could use the toilet while the bus was stopped, which he said was agreed to. The bus company contends that never happened.
Willoughby also got off the bus to stretch his legs and take a breather only to find the bus then began to leave.
He said he waved the driver down, who did pull over, and sprinted to hurry Kohing in the bathroom.
But to their dismay the driver had taken off again with their luggage on board, leaving them stranded.
“Once I had seen the bus start to go I was stressing … we lost it when we then saw the bus drive away with all our stuff,” Willoughby told the Herald.
His belongings included clothes and a MacBook.
The company disputes this, saying the pair disembarked without advising the driver, who was out of sight at the back of the bus handing luggage to the passenger getting off at that stop.
General manager for New Zealand Coachlines and Auckland Tourism Sam Peate said if the pair had informed the driver, he would have been aware and waited for them
“Unfortunately they did not do this and the bus departed without them.
“The driver saw a person waving at the bus as he drove off, however did not recognise that person. InterCity drivers deal with many passengers throughout the day and cannot be expected to memorise every face they see.”
Peate said as a “gesture of goodwill” InterCity has fully refunded the fare paid for the Thames to Whitianga part of the journey.
When the bus left, Willoughby and Kohing both had low battery on their cellphones.
Luckily a woman, who witnessed the incident, came to their rescue and gave them a ride as far as Whenuakite in hope of catching up to the bus on the way.
“She really saved us,” Willoughby said.
The teens called family on the woman’s phone as well as the InterCity customer service line, but reported having no luck.
Willoughby’s mother ended up picking up their bags in Whitianga and then collecting the pair from a school in Whenuakite.
“I just want an explanation for what happened,” Willoughby said.
The family has formally complained about the service.
Willoughby said the situation could have been worse and potentially dangerous.
“If we were younger or less confident, or that lady who picked us up wasn’t a nice lady, if that gas station was closed and we didn’t have our phones. We were in the middle of nowhere you couldn’t see anything else apart from the gas station we were at.”
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