Nearly 40 passengers on a Greyhound bus trip from Minneapolis to Chicago early Thursday endured hours of bone-chilling cold after the heater went out on what was so far the coldest night of the year.
Among the passengers were small children and a grown man who said he was in so much pain from the cold that he wanted to cry.
Passenger Anthony Johnson suggested to NBC Chicago the company tried to pull a fast one by using a vehicle that was already known to be without heat.
"Before we got on the bus, this bus had just left Chicago and came to Minnesota," Johnson explained. "The customers who got off the bus, they said there was no heat on the bus. And we were like, 'We hope we ain't getting on that bus,' so what [the company] did is they went around the block a couple of times and brought the same bus back, and we got on the same bus they had got off of."
Johnson said the driver claimed he'd just gotten the bus and said it would warm up shortly after the trip began.
It didn't, and when the driver took a break nearly 170 miles later, in Tomah, Wisconsin, the bus was still frigid. A photo Johnson snapped indicated the temperature on the bus was 82 degrees in the front, near the driver, and 46 degrees in the back, where the passengers were seated. The temperature display in the passenger compartment later dipped to just 12 degrees, another photo showed.
"I have sickle cell [anemia]," Johnson said. "I can't get cold. When I get cold I get pneumonia, so when I leave here I have to go to the hospital."
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One mother on board with a 1-year-old baby and a 4-year-old girl, Christina Clark, said other passengers were giving her blankets to help comfort the youngest child who was screaming and crying. Others said they sat with their feet up on the seats in an effort to keep them warm.
While passengers were still en route to Chicago, a Greyhound spokeswoman, Lanesha Gipson, confirmed the heat on the bus was out and told NBC Chicago a replacement vehicle was going to be available in Milwaukee. That replacement bus never arrived, passengers said upon arriving at Chicago's Greyhound station, at 630 W. Harrison St., on the city's Near West Side.
No refunds were made immediately available, though one passenger said he was able to get a $50 voucher after filing a complaint in Chicago. A company spokesperson said they were looking into whether other passengers would receive some sort of compensation.
The air temperature at O'Hare International Airport, where Chicago's official weather conditions are recorded, was -8 degrees shortly after 6 a.m., breaking an existing low of -7 degrees set on this date in 1936.