A group of tourists were outraged after their tour operator went rogue and punched their bus driver and asked them to touch one of their breasts.
Jenny Neilson and Mark Hewitt said they were supposed to have a peaceful vacation alongside eight other people in Queensland, Australia, but said they were instead witnessing a fight on a nightmarish trip.
The tourists were looking forward to their eight-day adventure with tour operator Reef N Beyond, but said the moment they met owner-operator Charlie Sturgess, 70, they realized their trip wouldn’t be much fun and fun.
“He talked about himself, his associates and his wealth, but interspersed with his conversation were sexist comments and racist comments,” Ms Neilson told A Current Affair.
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Mr Hewitt claimed the youngest woman in their group was embarrassed after being subjected to the ‘most absolutely offensive comment’.
He explained: “She was traveling with her mother and got on the bus with a Mickey Mouse t-shirt and Mickey Mouse was splayed across the front of her and Mickey’s hand around her chest, and he said, ‘ I want to shake Mickey’s hand’.”
Mr Hewitt went on to say that the operator tormented the driver who did not know the route.
“I’ve traveled a lot and I’ve never had an experience like this that was so prompted by the owner’s guide,” he added.
The group said they did their best to take in the scenic views, but on the third day their peace was interrupted after the enraged pensioner attacked the driver.
Ms Neilson said: “Several of the travelers who were there at the time said they saw him approach the driver, punch him in the face which knocked the driver to the ground and one of the female passengers had to get involved in trying to scare the owner away.”
Witnesses say the driver then pushed Mr Sturgess in response and police were called to the incident.
“We were then told that he had canceled everything for the rest of the tour, all accommodations, all activities and had left town,” Ms Neilson added.
The travellers, who booked their tour through TripADeal, alerted the company which then offered to pay for their flights after their trip was suddenly cancelled.
A spokesperson for TripADeal said they “have been working with Reef N Beyond since January 2021 with no issues to date” and confirmed that they will “refund all travelers in full”.
They said: “TripADeal takes great pride in providing a quality experience for each of our travelers, so we were very dismayed to learn of this incident.
“Since this incident occurred, TripADeal has learned that Mr. Sturgess has been struggling with mental health issues, with that in mind, we are showing him sensitivity as he manages these issues.
“We are working with Reef N Beyond to recover compensation for our impacted tour, however, we are in the process of refunding all travellers. To date, we have not received any compensation for the impacted tour.
“If a reservation was made with cash, it will be refunded, and if it was made with a coupon, the value of the coupon will be restored. As a sign of goodwill, all affected travelers will receive a $500 TripADeal voucher .
“Although flights are not included in this package, we have booked and paid for flights to ensure that all customers return home immediately. In addition, we work with all customers to reimburse them for the cost of their arrival flight .
“All disbursements will be made to Reef N Beyond, but TripADeal is happy to pay our valued customers before receiving funds from Reef and Beyond as Mr. Strugess takes care of his mental health issues.”
TripADeal and Reef and Beyond have been contacted for comment.