No one was injured during the robbery in Pretoria, according to Stevenson University. The students are being brought back to the United States as a precaution, Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Jim Salvucci said.
Several Stevenson University students and chaperones who were surrounded and robbed Sunday while on a tourist bus in South Africa are scheduled to return to campus Wednesday.
The group of 30 criminal justice students had just arrived in Pretoria, South Africa, for a five-week educational trip when the incident happened around 1 p.m. Sunday (7 a.m. in Maryland).
“Basically what happened was four motorcyclists pulled the bus over. One of them who had a handgun held those in the front of the bus at bay using the handgun. The others went through the bus and took cash, jewelry, electronics, anything they could get their hands on, including a couple passports,” said Jim Salvucci, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Eddie Carroll, a parent of Stevenson junior Branden Carroll, said his son was in the back of the bus when the robbers boarded.
“He said they just left the hotel and three guys hijacked the bus at gunpoint,” said Carroll, of Chestertown.
One student sent out an alarming text message, which caused parents to become frantic.
“Once they got stopped and saw the guys with guns, they knew they were going to be hijacked. One of the girls in the back of the bus — that’s how we found out — she texted her mother that they were getting ready to be hijacked and they were boarding the bus,” Carroll said.
The armed men stole passports and cash, officials said. No one was injured.
The South African government metropolitan police and its national police commissioner were immediately involved in the case, authorities said.
Counseling was offered for all involved but was declined.
“We’ve been in contact with the parents, we’re trying to keep them up to date. We sort of don’t have a lot of news since we’re trying to arrange a flight, but we are keeping the parents informed, we called all the parents yesterday,” Salvucci said.
One of the chaperones on the trip is Stevenson faculty member and former Baltimore City Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld. He said the South African authorities are handling the incident as well as could be expected.
“The students remained calm and focused despite the pressure and fear, and the situation ended without injury to anyone,” Bealefeld said.
“(Bealefeld) said it was a situation with a gun, you don’t want to act. You might be able to wrestle the gun but what happens then if the gun goes off? It was sort of a textbook robbery,” Salvucci said.
Carroll described the family’s fears before their son’s trip to South Africa and as they learned about the robbery.
“Not knowing what’s going on over there, you hear so much about hijackings and abductions,” Carroll said. “When we got that phone call that they were OK and at the U.S. Embassy, that was a good call.”
The students’ educational experience abroad will be cut short because the university plans to bring the group back home Wednesday.
“They had to contact a security firm because lots of the kids don’t have passports or anything. They’re handling them and getting those passports, and they have to give us a time of when they’re coming back, but they’re putting them on the next available flight back,” Carroll said.
According to Salvucci, “This is the fourth such tour of South Africa that the university has led, and no incidents have occurred in the past. Our chaperones are busy along with the American Embassy assisting with funds, passports and other support as needed.”
“These are 35 people who have potential trauma. We don’t want them to be alone 8,000 miles away. We want them home where they’re safe and sound with their families, with their friends and they’re much more secure,” Salvucci said.
The students are criminal justice majors