It's a challenge that stage magicians would hesitate to take: escape being handcuffed to the steering wheel of a closed bus, while a madman inside the vehicle opens fire randomly with an assault rifle. Alberto Lubang, 38, claimed he managed the feat on Monday evening - with the help of a nail cutter. The driver of the ill-fated Hong Thai tour bus, Lubang told reporters how his left hand was handcuffed to the steering wheel by hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza. Lubang said Mendoza was friendly towards his hostages at first. But his disposition changed as the siege wore on. At about 7 pm, the gunman asked the driver to switch on the television on the tour bus. Tuning in to the news, Mendoza caught a live feed showing police dragging his screaming brother, Gregorio. At that point, Lubang claimed, the gunman went berserk and started firing his M-16 assault rifle. Frantic, Lubang worked at the handcuffs using a nail cutter attached to his ignition keys. By twisting the nail cutter repeatedly, he said, he freed himself and jumped out the window. It was the sight of Lubang running away from the bus, shouting 'they're all dead', which alarmed police into mounting an assault at once. He said he shouted what he did because none of the passengers was moving any more. Some were not convinced. Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim said yesterday he thought the driver was an accomplice because he was too friendly with the gunman. Lim also scoffed at the idea that Lubang escaped with a nail cutter. Lubang, who said he had been interrogated non-stop by the police, returned to the crime scene with investigators. On the bus, he said, they found his nail cutter - still attached to the handcuffs.