Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

TOP STORY >>Woman says defect caused her behavior

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

The woman—perhaps delusional—who grabbed the wheel of an eastbound Greyhound bus July 9, forcing the bus off I-40 and into a stand of trees in Lonoke County, Monday pleaded not guilty by reason of mental defect. Circuit Judge Lance Hanshaw ordered her to undergo an Act 3 mental evaluation before her Nov. 5 court appearance.

Victoria Combs, 27, reportedly a soldier stationed at Ft. Campbell, has been charged with 47 counts of aggravated assault, one for the driver and each of the 46 other passengers on the bus, according to a spokesman for Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain. Combs also was charged with a single count of criminal mischief, also a felony.

David Meyers was appointed her public defender. No one was killed or seriously injured, although the bus cleared its own path into the marshy woods.

Combs, who appeared in court in a shirt with the word “ARMY” on the front, said she would like charges dropped so she could return to Afghanistan.

She is free on bond.

Eleven people, including Combs, were taken to hospitals after the crash at about 5:45 p.m.

After the passengers were evacuated and Combs arrested, it took Rich’s Wrecker Service two hours to pull the bus free.

George Rich, company’s owner, said the steering was damaged, the front end smashed and the windshield came out.

Combs had fled out the door after the bus came to rest sharply tilted to one side, but other passengers chased her down and held her until police arrived, one passenger said.

The accident occurred near the Remington Road intersection with I-40 just east of the Pulaski-Lonoke County line, about 30 miles east-northeast of Little Rock.

The bus traveled about 25 yards into the growth brush and, after the crash, could barely be seen from the highway.
Passenger Charlotte Simmons, 29, of Hot Springs, said Combs had been acting erratically since she boarded the bus in Nashville, Tenn.

“She got on with a police escort, saying she was afraid someone was going to kill her,” Simmons said.
Combs reported to the driver that other passengers were spraying her with something.

“Then Combs got up, grabbed the wheel and we all just went flying,” Simmons said.

A spokeswoman for Greyhound said 49 people were aboard the bus.

The bus began its trip at Richmond, Va., and its eventual destination was Dallas.