‘Just a Great Big Brother’: Family IDs 17-year-old Fatally Stabbed on Bus

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Homicide unit now investigating 2nd stabbing on public transit in the city this month

Ethan Bespflug was the oldest of five siblings, loved his family, was hard-working, a good student and avid video game player.

On Tuesday, Ethan was fatally stabbed on a bus in Surrey. He was 17.

“He wasn’t nefarious in any way, he wasn’t out looking for trouble. He was a very good kid,” his aunt Andrea Van Der Gracht said on the phone.

“This is tragic. This is a kid just going home from school, wanted to hang out at a friend’s house, basically being slaughtered.”

Van Der Gracht said on Tuesday night, Ethan was riding the 503 bus to meet his mother at King George Station. He had been out with friends. She was going to pick him up to take him home.

On that fateful ride, Van Der Gracht said, Ethan texted his mother that some other people got on the bus and were threatening him. He said he was scared.

Those would be the last messages he would send.

Stabbing happened near King George SkyTrain station

Surrey RCMP said the stabbing happened just before 9:30 p.m. PT near the intersection of King George Boulevard and 100 Avenue, near the King George SkyTrain station.

Police say two people had an “altercation” while riding a TransLink bus. TransLink said the incident occurred on Route 503 in Surrey, as the bus was heading eastbound away from King George station.

The injured teen was taken to hospital in critical condition and later died, RCMP said Wednesday morning in a statement.

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) is working on the case alongside Surrey RCMP.

RCMP told a news conference they would be stepping up patrols — in conjunction with Transit Police — at transit hubs in the Metro Vancouver city.

The move is also being made in response to an incident on April 1 in which a man had his throat slashed while travelling on a public transit bus on the Fraser Highway. A suspect has been charged with four terrorism-related offences in the attack.

“We will be increasing our patrols,” Surrey RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Vanessa Munn said during a media briefing on Wednesday afternoon. “We already do patrol actively … around transit hubs, but we’re also starting a joint project with Transit Police just in light of the recent incidents that have occurred.”

Munn indicated the increase in patrols might not be permanent.

“For now, it is in response to the incidents that have happened,” Munn said. “We will have to, obviously, evaluate how successful [it is] and the overall response of implementing these additional patrols, and from there, it will be determined whether it will be something that is ongoing.” 

Munn called Tuesday night’s stabbing “absolutely tragic” and said, “We are increasing patrols and taking additional measures to make sure that the members of our community do feel safe.”

RCMP said initial information suggests the stabbing was “a targeted and isolated incident.”

IHIT interviewing witnesses, seeking video footage

During Wednesday’s briefing, IHIT spokesperson Sgt. Timothy Pierotti said investigators are still speaking with witnesses and canvassing the area for video footage.

“We’re trying to locate anyone who was on the bus at the time who can provide us insight as to what happened,” Pierotti said. 

“Thankfully, there [were] a lot of people in the area that were able to provide us some insight. We’re working to build an idea of who that suspect is at this time. Once we do have that information we’ll likely be sharing that publicly in hopes of locating that individual.”

Pierotti said there is no description of the suspect at this time. 

Police say there are no indications this incident is connected to the Lower Mainland gang conflict.

Van Der Gracht is flabbergasted that a simple bus ride turned fatal for her nephew.

“How can we walk down the street and feel safe anymore? You can’t,” she said.

“He’s just a great big brother. He loved his family … he didn’t deserve this.”

Van Der Gracht and another aunt have started online fundraisers for Ethan’s funeral and the family’s other expenses.

Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation