PHOENIX - A passenger on a Greyhound bus travelling through Arizona "went berserk" and attacked the driver early Thursday, causing the bus to swerve violently and go off the highway before other passengers subdued him, witnesses and authorities said.
People were thrown from their seats after the California man, who reportedly was hallucinating, screamed "Everybody's going to die," grabbed the wheel and pummeled the driver. More than half of the roughly 40 passengers were hurt, including three who were airlifted to a Phoenix hospital.
"Everybody is jumping and flying and screaming," passenger Susana Ordinola, 48, of San Bernardino, Calif., said of the ordeal.
When the Dallas-bound bus finally stopped, the 25-year-old man and a female companion got off and ran into the desert, only to return about a half-hour later. Some passengers cursed and threw rocks at the man before paramedics stopped them.
The bus was heading east from Los Angeles on Interstate 10 when then the attack happened shortly before 2 a.m. near the community of Tonopah, about 50 miles west of Phoenix, authorities said. The speed limit in the area is 75 mph.
The man "basically went berserk in the bus and grabbed control of vehicle," Harquahala Fire District Chief Dan Caudle told KPHO-TV.
The bus crossed the highway median but came to a stop before entering westbound traffic when other passengers restrained the man, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said.
"The passengers descended on him," DPS spokesman Bart Graves told The Associated Press.
The bus remained upright, and none of the 24 people taken to hospitals had life-threatening injuries, the agency said.
Three were airlifted to St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, but a hospital spokeswoman said one of them has been released. Fifteen people were taken to West Valley Hospital locations in Goodyear and Buckeye. Officials say five of those 15 ended up being admitted.
The driver "did a good job of maintaining control" before the bus came to a stop in the median, where there were numerous rocks and bushes, Caudle told the station.
The injuries included a broken sternum suffered by one passenger who helped restrain the attacker, said Officer Carrick Cook, another DPS spokesman.
The Department of Public Safety identified the attacker as Maquel Donyel Morris, of Los Angeles.
Ordinola described the experience while waiting for a bus back to California. She said she heard other passengers complain to the driver about Morris during a stop in Blythe, Calif. She then saw the driver talk to him.
After the bus entered Arizona, the man suddenly ran toward the driver, Ordinola said. "He screamed, 'Everybody's going to die.'"
Ordinola said she was sitting right behind the driver and saw Morris grab the steering wheel. The bus started swerving, and people were thrown from their seats. When it came to a stop, Ordinola saw people bleeding and screaming in pain.
Morris and a female companion then got off the bus and ran into the desert, the DPS said.
When other passengers saw Morris coming back, they started cursing at him and yelling "That's the guy," Ordinola said. Some threw rocks at him.
According to Ordinola, Morris' companion tried to shield him before paramedics stepped in.
Graves said Morris reportedly was hallucinating and indicated he wanted to get off the bus. He was arrested at the scene and taken to a hospital for a drug-induced condition, Graves said.
Morris likely faces numerous counts of endangerment, assault and aggravated assault, the DPS said. He does not yet have an attorney.
Greyhound spokeswoman Alexandra Pedrini said the bus was carrying 41 passengers, plus the driver. However, DPS counted 46 passengers.
A relief bus was sent to the accident scene to take the nearly 20 uninjured passengers to Phoenix so they could continue to their destinations, she said.
Ordinola, who had pain in her knees and a rib, was treated at a Phoenix hospital.
"I just want to go home," she said.
A similar accident involving a Greyhound bus occurred in Casa Grande in 2001. That bus, which also originated in Los Angeles, rolled onto its side after a male passenger allegedly grabbed the steering wheel from the driver. The wreck left 33 people injured.