Manmeet Alisher, a 29-year-old bus driver who aspired to become a singing star, died in the Australian city of Brisbane on Friday when a man hurled an incendiary device at him and set him alight in front of other passengers.
Alisher, also known as Manmeet Sharma, hailed from Sangrur in Punjab and had moved to Australia about nine years ago, his friends Jaswinder Santh and Saibjit Singh told the media in Brisbane.
A 48-year-old man was arrested after the fatal attack on Alisher when he pulled up to a bus stop in the suburb of Moorooka. The alleged attacker was among people waiting at the bus stop, reports said.
Alisher “stood no chance” and died on the spot, SBS television network reported. Six other people on the bus were treated for minor burns and smoke inhalation, police said.
Queensland Police commissioner Ian Stewart told the media there was nothing to suggest the attack was motivated by terrorism or racial factors. Officers from the State Security and Counter Terrorism Group were involved in the murder investigation by local detectives as a “precaution”, he said.
Local police superintendent Jim Keogh too there was “no apparent motive” and ruled out a link to terrorism.
“A bus driver, going about doing his business, supporting the community, has had his life taken from him in what is a senseless and needless act…The fire was substantial, he would have stood little chance,” Kegh was quoted as saying by ABC.
Taxi driver Aguek Nyok was hailed as a hero after he kicked open a rear door on the burning bus to let out the passengers, including two children. Nyok told the media it took three kicks to open the door and there was nothing he could do to rescue the driver.
Dramatic mobile phone footage aired on Australian TV channels showed smoke billowing out of the bus as firefighters struggled to douse the flames.
Members of Australia’s Indian community paid tribute to Alisher, who was well known among local Punjabis as a singer and promoter of showbiz events. Videos on his Facebook page showed him performing at community events.
Alisher’s friends Jaswinder Santh and Saibjit Singh said he was a go-getter who worked very hard since he moved to Australia nine years ago. They said he planned to release a single in the New Year and he had told them that “he would become a star”.
48-year-old man in custody re Moorooka homicide investigation. No linkage to terrorist activites. No evidence to racial motive. @CoPStewart— QPS Media Unit (@QPSmedia) October 28, 2016
Moorooka investigation is still live. Person assisting did throw something at bus driver. Driver now deceased. @CoPStewart— QPS Media Unit (@QPSmedia) October 28, 2016
The attack came just four weeks after local authorities in Queensland had announced a review aimed at stopping an increase in attacks on bus drivers.
Flags at council buildings will be flown at half mast on Saturday as a mark of respect and a vigil will also be held as a mark of respect to Alisher. The Transport Workers Union Queensland said all bus drivers will wear a black armband for the next week in Alisher’s memory.
(With agency inputs)