The driver of a bus which was swooped upon by armed police following a false terror scare has described his harrowing ordeal.
David Myerscough, a driver from Preston who stepped in at the last minute because a colleague fell ill, said he phoned his wife to warn her that he might soon be on the news soon as armed response units surrounded his bus.
The scare was caused by a passenger who anonymously called police to tell them they had seen smoke coming out of a bag which another traveller was holding on an early morning Megabus from Preston to London.
After a major anti-terror operation which shut the M6 toll road for hours and saw passengers frisked at gunpoint, officers eventually discovered that the smoke was powdered vapour from an electronic cigarette – a device which can be legally used indoors and is designed to help smokers give up.
Speaking to reporters today Mr Myerscough described how he was first alerted to a potential threat when his control room ordered him to pull over and wait for police after crossing through the M6 toll plaza near Lichfield, Staffordshire.
“Once we pulled over, the police told me to make sure nobody left the bus under any circumstances,” he said. “After a while, we realised that the road beside us had actually been closed and cars had stopped going past us.”
He added: “Fortunately, what could have been a terrible situation turned out to be OK. When I rang my wife, I said there had been an incident and that we might be on the news. She was a bit worried, but I always felt it was going to be OK and I'd be coming home.”
Passengers remained stranded on the bus as armed officers and bomb disposal units set up quarantine pens on the tarmac.
They were eventually ordered out one by one.
“I was instructed to take the passengers off the bus one by one,” the 38-year-old father of two said. “I had to wait at the front of the bus until the armed police gave me the signal to bring the next passenger off, and I was to tell them not to put their hands in their pockets and just to walk out slowly. Once one passenger was off, I'd then get the next one.”
Passengers also described what it was like to be on the receiving end of a major terror alert. Jenny Lister, who was on her way to London for a job interview, told the BBC: “When we got off the bus, there were armed police aiming at us. We had to walk very slowly. We walked over to the toll, where someone searched us and there were sniffer dogs. Then our details were taken - name, address, age etc. Once we had given our details, the police told us that there had been a phone call about a suspicious package.”
She added: ““We gave the police all of the belongings we had on us and were told to sit in rows and not talk to each other. There was a small area of the motorway where we were told to sit and stay.
“It was probably 45 minutes to an hour that we were sat there. People could go to the toilet, but only one-by-one. We were given water too. After this we were put back on this bus and allowed our phones.”