The taxi driver credited with saving the passengers on a Brisbane bus from the blaze that killed its driver will be nominated for a national bravery award.
Aguek Nyok kicked out the back door of the flaming bus on Friday morning after he heard passengers screaming to get out.
They were trying to flee after bus driver Manmeet Alisher, 29, was set alight while letting passengers on at the Brisbane suburb of Moorooka.
Mr Alisher, a prominent figure in the Punjabi community, was burned alive in the attack, with 48-year-old Anthony Mark Edward O’Donohue charged with his death, as well as 11 counts of attempted murder relating to the passengers.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Sunday said she’ll be writing to the Australian Bravery Declarations Council recommending Mr Nyok – a former Sudanese refugee – be recognised for his heroic actions.
“What a hero,” Ms Palaszczuk said on Sunday.
“I’m more than happy to put his name forward for a bravery medal – he saved 11 lives that day … he put his own life at risk.”
Mr Nyok told Nine News he initially thought the bus driver would open the door for the screaming passengers.
“I stood a few seconds and nothing was happening so I decided to do something about it,” he said.
“Everyone was shaking … I was just holding the door until the last one got out.”
The passengers were treated for smoke inhalation and minor injuries.
Clair Savage, who witnessed the rescue, told Fairfax Media the taxi driver was a hero.
“I just said to him ‘you just saved people’s lives’,” she said.
Race hate claims
Mr Alisher’s brother, Amit Alisher, visited the site of the fire on Sunday after arriving in Brisbane from India. Amit Alisher will return his brother’s body to India.
Ms Palaszczuk said she hoped to meet with Amit later on Sunday.
Shortly before his departure from India, Amit Alisher had told the ABC that his family suspected the killing was racially motivated, despite police stating there was no apparent motive for the attack.
He said while the family accepted there was no evidence it was a hate crime, they feared the worst.
India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, meanwhile, has tweeted that she will raise Mr Alisher’s death “at the highest level in the Australian government”.
Ms Swaraj also offered her condolences to Mr Alisher’s family.
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) October 29, 2016
Parents not told
Mr Alisher’s parents are yet to be told of their son’s death, a friend Winnerjit Goldy confirmed on Sunday.
Mr Goldy spoke to Brisbane media as Amit Alisher was too distressed to speak upon his arrival at the airport.
Mr Goldy said Mr Alisher’s parents were sick and old, and were yet to learn of their son’s death.
“We haven’t told the parents that he’s no more, we just say it’s an accident, he’s in a coma,” he said.
“It’s a really hard time for us. This is a bad day in the history of Australia. It’s a country of justice and we feel we will get a justice.”