A 67-year-old woman from Chile visiting her family in Edmonton was punched unconscious by a stranger on the LRT in downtown Edmonton Saturday afternoon.
Iris Pino Ortega and her sisters were riding the LRT from Southgate station to downtown Edmonton when a man attacked her as the train left the Government Centre station.
Her nephew, Carlos Henriquez described the attack.
“Someone came up and elbowed my aunt in the face, getting her all dizzy.
“Then they turned around and punched her in the jaw, knocking her out. She fell down.”
As the senior lay unconscious on the floor, Edmonton Transit Service employees called 911 for police and an ambulance.
When the train stopped at the next station, Corona, the attacker fled.
Pino Ortega’s sister briefly gave chase, but stopped when bystanders warned her the suspect could have a weapon.
Henriquez said transit staff, police officers and witnesses all came to her aid and she appreciated their help.
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The ordeal left his aunt with a serious concussion. Pino Ortega speaks Spanish, so her nephew translated for her.
“She said that she’s in a lot of pain, really traumatized and she’s shocked at the brutality that she saw,” he told Global News.
When asked if she’d take the LRT again, she answered “No, no, no.”
The senior explained she is having trouble sleeping and is frequently woken by nightmares.
She cried and hugged her nephew.
“Her image is Canada is this wonderful, first-world country — it’s safe. Never in a million years did they think this would happen.”
Henriquez says he’s angry, tired of people passing the buck on who’s responsible for keeping innocent passengers safe on buses and trains.
“If we can’t protect them on our public transport, we have a failed system and we need to fix it. We spend a lot of money, expanding the LRT through the whole city. But how much money have we put into safety?”
Global News told Mayor Amarjeet Sohi about the attack.
“The situation you are describing is horrific. No one should experience what this visitor to our city experienced,” he said.
“This is a reflection of a bigger problem that we have seen and experienced over the last year or so. We have seen crime increase, random attacks increase — including on public transit.”
He said the city is increasing enforcement to try and address the problems.
“My heart goes out to the family.
“I deeply worry about the safety of Edmontonians and visitors in public spaces.”
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Sohi also acknowledged the damage these crimes can do to the city’s reputation — both locally and abroad.
“They definitely tarnish the image of our community,” he said.
The Edmonton Transit Service did not make anyone available for an interview.
In a statement, branch manager Carrie Hotton-MacDonald wrote, “The City has more around-the-clock presence from Edmonton Police Service in our stations, coordinated with Transit Peace Officers (TPOs). The City now has 93 TPOs, up from 72 in December 2022.”
The statement said there’s also police, security guards and 4,000 surveillance cameras.
“We recognize and understand that hearing about these troubling incidents can be unnerving,” Hotton-MacDonald wrote.
“It’s important to note we deliver more than 1.25 million rides per week, and the vast majority of them are very safe.”
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That’s little solace to Henriquez and his family. His aunts had to reschedule their flight home at their own expense.
When they get back to Chile, the stories they share about Edmonton won’t paint the city in a positive light.
“You go on vacation and you want to have a good time. See what the city has to offer,” Henriquez said.
“Unfortunately the city showed its ugliest colours.”
He wants ETS to release the surveillance video of his aunt’s attack, so Edmontonians can see with their own eyes what is happening on transit and take joint action to improve safety.
“This is enough. This should be a wake-up call, to everybody. This can’t happen again.”
The Edmonton Police Service said it is investigating but as of Tuesday evening, had not made any arrests.
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