A bus driver in Bayonne , France suffered fatal brain injuries after he was savagely attacked by 5 passengers who refused to wear face masks. The incident occurred at about 7pm on Sunday evening. The driver had earlier refused to allow the same group to board the bus for not having tickets as well as attempting to bring a dog on board.

The driver, who was in his 50s and identified as Philippe, works for the Chronoplus Company that operates the public bus covering the routes around the southwest city of Bayonne.

Witness accounts tell of how "they got on the bus without masks, and also refused to show a ticket. The first person to get on the bus had a dog with him while the rest assumed they could all get through and do whatever they please."

"When the driver stood up to them, a very unpleasant argument developed, and voices were raised and then the driver was attacked when everybody spilled out onto the bus platform. "

The driver was repeatedly punched in the head and kicked by all 5 passengers, leaving the helpless man with serious head trauma and other injuries before they escaped..

Philippe was rushed to a nearby hospital and placed under intensive care but was declared brain dead shortly after.

Police were able to track down the 30-year-old man with the dog, which led him to point cops in the direction of his companions. All 5 attackers are now in Bayonne police custody but are yet to be identified.

BBC sources say that the regional bus service is suffering major disruption due to a lot of drivers refusing to work after this gruesome assault on one of their own colleagues.

Chronoplus colleagues of Philippe expressed their concern on the mandatory wearing of masks in France, as there have been three other recent assaults on drivers related to this rule. Daily tensions have been reported between passengers and drivers requiring them to enforce the law, which none of them are trained to do

While the bus company has voiced its support to the plight of its workers, the mayor of Bayonne, Claude Olive assured them that discussions are in progress to provide and improve security on buses. Mayor Olive reiterates "This was a barbaric attack. Philippe was a wonderful person who should've been protected."

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Passengers wearing face masks arrive on a flight from Asia at Los Angeles International Airport, California Photo: AFP / Mark RALSTON