STEVENSON, Md. (AP) — Thirty students from a Maryland university on a trip to South Africa will return home early after they were robbed at gunpoint on a tour bus, university officials said Monday.
No one was injured during the robbery Sunday in Pretoria, South Africa, according to Stevenson University. Officials are confident that students are safe, but they are being brought back to the United States as a precaution, Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Jim Salvucci told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
"We want to maximize the safety of the students and their wellbeing," Salvucci said, "so we're working very, very hard to arrange flights and bring them home as soon as possible."
Officials at the Baltimore-area school said four people with a gun stopped the bus about 1 p.m. Sunday, the second day of a five-week educational trip. The robbers stole cash, electronics and passports from the students and five of their chaperones. Salvucci said the passports have been replaced, and the university plans to reimburse the students and faculty for their losses.
Former Baltimore police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld, who is now a faculty member chaperoning the trip, said in a school news release that students "remained calm and focused despite the pressure and fear."
Salvucci said nothing like this has happened on four previous trips the school sponsored to South Africa and added that the university is discussing "how to proceed in the future."
The South African government metropolitan police and national authorities are investigating the robbery, Salvucci said.
The U.S. Embassy in South Africa said in a statement Monday that officials were aware of the incident, but because of privacy issues, could not provide further information about the group. "The protection of U.S. citizens overseas is one of the Department of State's highest priorities," the statement said.