The French bus driver left brain-dead after an attack by passengers who refused to wear face masks has been named as 58-year-old Philippe Monguillot – as his wife said she was ‘living in a nightmare’.
Mr Monguillot was dragged from the driver’s seat and savagely beaten by the gang of fare-dodgers as he tried to enforce coronavirus rules on the bus in Bayonne.
The gang of five, described by prosecutors as ‘down-and-out’ drug users, are facing criminal charges but have not yet been publicly identified.
The driver’s wife Veronique Monguillot, 52, told Le Parisien that the couple’s lives ‘were destroyed in a couple of seconds’.
Bus driver Philippe Monguillot, pictured with his wife Veronique, was dragged from the driver’s seat and savagely beaten by a gang of fare-dodgers as he tried to enforce coronavirus rules
Mrs Monguillot said: ‘He can’t leave us like this, he was going to be 59 years old soon. No, you don’t do this over a bus ticket. You don’t kill for free like this!’
The Monguillots are the parents of three daughters aged 18, 21 and 24, and they are being supported by friends and colleagues who have set up a support group.
‘Philippe was going to retire in a year and we thought we were going to buy a motorhome in September,’ said Mrs Monguillot, who added: ‘I don’t want to face the facts… I feel like I’m living a nightmare.’
Mrs Monguillot said the gang of five were known to her husband, having had an argument about unpaid fares earlier in the day.
A prosecuting source has described them as ‘down and outs who were well known for sitting around the town with dogs, drinking and taking drugs.’
Mr Monguillot was dragged out of his bus by them, and then savagely punched and kicked, to the extent that his head was disfigured.
Masks are currently compulsory on all public transport in France, but members of the group refused to put them on when they got on the vehicle – a cross between a bus and a tram run by the Chronoplus company – at about 7pm on Sunday.
Describing the attack on Mr Monguillot, an investigating source said: ‘They got on the bus without masks, and also refused to show a ticket.
‘The first to get on had a dog with him – they just assumed they could all get on and do what they want, but the driver had to do his job.
The gang of five got on the bus in Bayonne (shown on a map in south-western France) without wearing a masks and refused to show a ticket, it is alleged
‘When he stood up to them, a very unpleasant argument developed, and voices were raised and then the driver was attacked when everybody spilled out on to the bus platform.
‘Philippe was punched and kicked repeatedly and then left with serious injuries, before the gang escaped.’
A colleague of Mr Monguillot described him as a ‘decent and hardworking man who always looked after passengers.’
He added: ‘There has been a lot of tension over masks, because they are the law, but bus staff are not police, and we should not have to enforce the law.’
The Chronoplus colleague said there had been three other assaults related to masks in recent days, but none as serious as the one involving Mr Monguillot.
Claude Olive, the Mayor of Bayonne, said meetings were in progress to try and improve security on buses.
‘This was a barbaric attack,’ said Mr Olive. ‘Philippe was a wonderful person who should have been protected.’
Masks became mandatory as France began to move out of Covid-19 lockdown towards the end of May.