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A Long Beach Bus Driver Got Lost. Passengers Thought They Were Being Kidnapped

A Long Beach Police squad car is seen in this 2014 file photo. (Photo by Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC)
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What should have been a 10-minute trip from the Aquarium of the Pacific to the Queen Mary in Long Beach turned into an hourslong ordeal for passengers after their shuttle driver went the wrong way and refused to stop for about half an hour, causing a panic and culminating with the driver getting arrested.

As many as 30 passengers were aboard the privately contracted bus, which was supposed to take them to the nearby ship for its Dark Harbor event.

Long Beach police later said the incident was a misunderstanding that escalated when the driver "became disoriented due to street closures in the area" and ended up in the city of Carson. Some riders believed they were being kidnapped.

"I told him [the driver] straight up, 'At this point it's kidnapping. You can't hold us like this,'" one passenger later told ABC7. "I stood up with him, and he just whipped around and nailed me in the stomach and knocked me back into a seat."

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Video obtained by ABC7 showed passengers scrambling out the windows when the bus came to stop at a traffic light in Carson.

The driver then pulled into a nearby gas station and opened the door so the rest could leave. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies and Long Beach police responded to the scene and arrested the driver on suspicion of kidnapping.

By Friday morning, after many interviews with witnesses, LBPD officials said the driver was being released and called the incident a confusing "situation that escalated."

"He got disoriented (and) got lost," LBPD spokeswoman Arantxa Chavarria told LAist Friday. "There was no intention of kidnapping anyone."

Chavarria added that the driver could face a charge of battery for allegedly getting physical with the passenger that confronted him -- if the man decides to press charges. The driver told police he had gotten into a "separate verbal confrontation" with the same passenger earlier when he tried to board the bus with an open alcoholic drink.

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