HOULTON, Maine — The gray-haired man was clean-cut and quiet, but Christine Hart couldn’t help but notice him as the Cyr Bus Line bus she was riding left Bangor on Wednesday evening.
The 26-year-old Presque Isle resident was riding back to her hometown after a stay in Bangor. She noticed the stranger from her seat in the back of the bus.
“He wasn’t making noise or anything, he was just fidgeting and acting nervous,” she said Thursday of the man later identified as Daniel Thomas Maccabee, 50, of Quebec. “He kept going in and out of the bathroom. He used the bathroom about three times by the time we pulled off the interstate and into Houlton.”
Just as the bus stopped at the Irving Big Stop restaurant in Houlton, another woman, a passenger on the bus, came running back to her.
Hart said when the bus pulled into the parking lot, the passengers started moving toward the door. She initially tried to whisk past Maccabee.
But she didn’t make it.
“I had almost gotten by him when he grabbed me by the back of the hair,” she said Thursday. “He pulled my head back so that he could see me and said, ‘Maybe I should keep you for safekeeping.’”
He then hesitated a few seconds before saying, “Nah” and tossing her by the hair into the parking lot, she said.
Hart said that everyone ran into the store, and they were ushered into the very back of the building. Police began gathering for the nine-hour standoff that eventually ended at 4:30 a.m. Thursday when Maccabee gave himself up. He has been charged with assault, aggravated reckless conduct and terrorizing and is being held at the Aroostook County Jail.
The police kept the other passengers there for a time before they were all put into taxis provided by Cyr Bus Line and taken to their final destinations.
Hart said she had “nothing but praise” for the bus driver, Archie Rivers, 68, of Old Town.
“He stayed so calm, and when we were in the store, he kept coming up to us and making sure we were OK,” she said. “He was amazing. He was so professional, and he would talk to the police when we were waiting in the store and give us updates. I can’t say enough about him.”
Despite the previous night’s drama, Rivers was back on the job Thursday night, getting ready for another Bangor-to-Caribou run.
In a brief interview at the Greyhound bus station in downtown Bangor, Rivers acknowledged that having a bomb threat occur on his bus was a first in his 10 years as a bus driver.
Rivers took up bus driving as a second career before retiring from a special education teaching position at the Southern Penobscot Regional Program for Exceptional Students.
Rivers said he didn’t get too worked up during Wednesday night’s episode.
“I thought he was faking,” he said. “It just ran through my mind that he didn’t have what he said he had.
“He put his arm around me and I looked at his hand and he had his thing here,” Rivers said holding his hand just above one of his shoulders. “But his thumb was up. In my own estimation, if you’re going to blow something up, you’ve got your thumb down on the switch and when you let go of the switch — it blows,” Rivers said.
“He wanted me to take him across the border and I said no. If I’d have thought he had a real bomb, I would have,” he said.
According to Rivers, one of the male passengers on the bus thought Maccabee had a gun.
“If he had a gun, they [the passengers and others] were going to get him. They were going after him but then they realized that he had what he said was a bomb so they didn’t dare get him,” Rivers said.
“The people on the bus — there was only eight of them — they handled it well,” he said, adding that there were four men and four women on the bus when the bomb threat was made.
Rivers said he finally was allowed to leave Houlton about 7 a.m. Thursday. He said the suspect was held on the bus for several hours and then law enforcement officials looked the bus over.
“By then, the battery was dead so we had to call someone to charge it up,” he said with a laugh.
Regular riders on Rivers’ run sometimes refer to him as “the singing bus driver.”
Rivers also is a singer-songwriter who once was a frequent performer on Dick Stacey’s Country Jamboree, a Saturday night television staple in area homes throughout the ’70s and early ’80s.
Rivers was among the Stacey’s alumni who took the stage during a special Jamboree reunion show during last summer’s Bangor State Fair.
Riders sometimes are treated to a country music serenade from the man behind the wheel of their bus. He does take requests, and riders can buy a copy of one of his CDs at the front of the bus for $10.
Despite what happened, Hart said that she wouldn’t hesitate to board a bus again.
“I never would have suspected that something like this could happen,” she said. “But I know it can.”