(CNN) -- A Greyhound passenger attacked the driver on a moving bus early Thursday in Arizona, police said, sending the vehicle on a jostling ride that injured 24 people. But quick-acting passengers helped prevent what could have been a gruesome outcome, authorities said.
The assailant approached the driver, hit him and tried to take control of the wheel as the bus headed east on Interstate 10 around 1:45 a.m. roughly 50 miles west of Phoenix, police said. That sent the vehicle bouncing across an uneven median, Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer Carrick Cook said.
Other passengers jumped to their feet, subdued the attacker and helped the driver stop the bus in the median, just seconds before it would have barreled head-on into other vehicles, police said.
"This thing traveled about 300 feet in the median, bouncing up and down, and that's where the injuries occurred," Cook said. " ... I think the officer (at the scene) said it was about 6 feet from going into oncoming traffic."
Police said they believe the attacker was Maquel Donyel Morris, 25. He fled into the desert, but returned 30 minutes later and was arrested, Cook said.
It wasn't immediately clear what led to the attack, Cook said.
Among the injured, one suffered fractures to the lower body, and one sustained a back injury, Cook said. At least 21 were taken to hospitals, he said.
No immediate public statement was made on Morris' behalf.