The man suspected of assaulting a Greyhound bus driver on Thursday threatened to "flip the bus" before struggling for control of the steering wheel moments before it stopped upright in a median on Interstate 10, according to a Department of Public Safety report.
DPS has turned over custody of suspect Maquel Donyel Morris, 25, of Los Angeles to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, according to a DPS spokesperson. MCSO deputies are keeping a watch over him while he is treated at the Maricopa Medical Center.
Passengers told the driver that Morris had been acting strangely on the bus that was en route from California to Tennessee, according to the report.
After hearing from the passengers, driver Ray Cunningham stopped the bus in Quartzsite and talked with Cunningham and his girlfriend, both of whom assured Cunningham there would be no problems.
About an hour later, Morris kicked open the door that separates the driver's compartment from the passengers and demanded to be let off the bus and then tried to grab the steering wheel as the bus traveled 70 mph on the interstate, Cunningham said.
Cunningham then banged the glass between the compartments to get other passengers' attention and yelled, "I need help to get this guy off me or he's going to crash the bus," according to the report.
Passengers in the front row jumped to the driver's aid and tried to control Morris, according to the report.
Passenger Gregory Fort, of Elk Grove, CA, told officers he heard Morris yell, "I'm going to flip this (expletive)."
The bus left the eastbound lanes of I-10 and traveled about 500 yards in the median before coming to rest just 6 feet from the oncoming traffic in the westbound lanes, the report said.
DPS recommended the following charges for Morris: 47 counts of endangerment, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of criminal damage.
Passengers and law enforcement officials hailed Cunningham as a hero after he fended off the attack near Tonopah about 1:45 a.m. Thursday.
An Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman said three passengers were airlifted to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix and 24 others were taken to various hospitals.
Jeff Hawkins, who was seated near the front of the bus, was flown to St. Joseph's Hospital with a fractured sternum and ribs.
John Martinez was also flown to St. Joseph's with a fractured hip, broken ankle and abrasions to his face.
That Cunningham was able to bring the bus to a stop in the median, which had numerous rocks, bushes and other rough terrain, was no small feat, said Harquahala Fire District Chief Dan Caudle.
"He did a good job of maintaining control," Caudle said. He said the bus "jostled" quite a bit and the three most seriously injured passengers were ejected from their seats.
"(The driver) did a tremendous job," said Fort, a commercial truck driver. "I drive this route every week. The guy was beating him uncontrollably, hitting him in the face, head. There is nothing anyone could have done better."
Fort said the driver deserves some sort of award for his actions.
The bus left Los Angeles about 6:15 p.m. Wednesday and was scheduled to arrive in Phoenix at 2:30 a.m., according to a Greyhound statement.
Greyhound originally said there were 41 passengers and the driver on board. On Friday, Greyhound reported the bus was carrying a total of 50 people, including Morris and the driver. Twenty-six passengers were taken to hospitals, according to Greyhound.
Two relief buses were dispatched to bring the uninjured passengers to Phoenix and Greyhound was working to expedite them to their destinations, according to the statement.
By late Thursday afternoon, the company said all of the uninjured customers and those that were treated and released have all been put on buses to their final destinations.
Caudle said the suspect "basically went berserk in the bus and grabbed control of the vehicle."
He said Cunningham suffered minor injuries but would be OK, and Greyhound had made arrangements for another bus to pick up the passengers and take them to Phoenix.
After the bus stopped, Morris and his girlfriend, 20-year-old Bryanna Moore, ran from the bus and into the desert, only to return 30 minutes later when they were caught by DPS officers and taken into custody.
Officers said Morris continued to exhibit erratic behavior before he was taken to Phoenix, yelling, "Help me" to passing motorists.
Fort said he was supposed to fly out of Oakland but that 1,300 flights had been canceled, forcing him to take a bus.
Fort said he talked with the suspect and his girlfriend in San Bernardino, CA, and the girl told him her boyfriend was "having an issue."
Fort said he suspected something might be wrong with the man when he placed his hand on his shoulder, and the man jumped away and started crying.
"I said, 'Something is really wrong,' but I didn't say anything (to the driver)," Fort said, who added he wishes he had told somebody about the man's behavior.
Fire officials said it appeared the man and his girlfriend might have had some "substance" in their systems, but that it couldn't be determined for sure until tests are completed, though Morris later told DPS officers he had smoked methamphetamine earlier in the day.
Fort said the impact of the swerving bus caused him to lose two hearing aids and he chipped a tooth.
He said the inside of the bus was chaos. "I've never seen chaos like that," he said.
Chrissy Sanchez said she was asleep and was awakened by the commotion.
"I remember hearing screaming, and when I realized it was real, that we were going off the road, I thought I was going to die," Sanchez said. She said she struck her face on the seat in front of her.
She said she thought the man next to her had a heart attack, but that she thought he had injured his sternum.
"Mentally, I'm freaked out, but thankful I'm alive," she said.
Fort said a DPS officer told him that unruly passengers are frequent on Greyhound buses.
"He said they were called out last week on a similar situation," Fort said.
Morris' girlfriend, who was on the bus at the time, remains a cooperative witness, according to DPS and is not in custody.
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