Truck driver arrested for DUI after sideswiping bus in accident that killed eight migrant workers

The collision with a pickup truck happened early on Tuesday in Marion County, Florida

Dan Gooding
Tuesday 14 May 2024 23:14
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Deadly migrant bus crash in Florida

A pickup truck driver has been charged with driving under the influence after he crashed with a bus carrying migrant farm workers, killing eight and injuring around 40 others.

Bryan Maclean Howard is facing eight counts of driving under the influence-manslaughter after the crash in Marion County just after 6.30am on Tuesday.

Around 53 people were on board the former school bus heading to a farm to work when Mr Howard’s truck allegedly side-swiped the vehicle.

The bus spun off State Road 40, hit a tree and landed in a field. Eight people on board died, while around 40 others were taken to nearby hospitals, some in critical condition.

A bus, which had been carrying migrant farm workers, overturned in a field in Marion County, Florida on Tuesday 14 May 2024 (Marion County Fire Rescue)

The workers were on their way to work at Cannon Farms in nearby Dunnellon, Florida.

“They are hard-working individuals and there is absolutely nothing wrong with them being here,” Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said, after being asked if those on board were undocumented.

Just after midday, the Mexican Consulate in Orlando announced it was offering emergency phone numbers for the “presumably Mexican” migrants on board.

“[We] would appreciate any information about the affected Mexican individuals and their family members,” the consulate posted on X.

Florida Highway Patrol told The Independent that the approximately 40 people injured were taken to local hospitals for treatment, later saying that some were in a “very serious” condition.

The agency is investigating the cause of the collision, which it is treating as “vehicular homicide”.

A bus carrying farm workers crashed northwest of Orland, Florida on Tuesday (Marion County Sheriff’s Office)

“It’s probably going to be six months, at least, before we conclude factually what transpired here today,” FHP Public Information Officer Pat Riordan told reporters on the scene.

Some victims were taken to nearby AdventHealth facilities in Ocala. The hospital told The Independent that 16 patients were in its care.

"Our prayers are with all those affected by the tragic bus accident in Ocala this morning,” Dr Rodrigo Torres, Chief Medical Officer, AdventHealth Ocala, said in a statement. “Our immediate priority is to provide exceptional medical care to those injured, and compassionate support to our patients and their loved ones."

Two were later taken to other facilities, while 14 were discharged.

EMS workers are seen transporting one of the dozens injured in a fatal bus crash in Marion County, Florida, on Tuesday 14 May 2024 (Marion County Fire Rescue)

The farm where the workers were heading to, Cannon Farms, posted to Facebook saying it would be closed on Tuesday.

“Please pray with us for the families and the loved ones involved in this tragic accident,” the statement said.

The Florida Immigrant Coalition called the incident “gut-wrenching”.

“This accident, just like the Key Bridge collapse, illustrates the intricate interconnectivity between migrant labour and the success of our country as an economic powerhouse,” Adriana Rivera, Director of communications for FLIC, told The Independent.

“We would not be who we are today without the sacrifice and labour of the men and women who, while vilified and spat upon by many, have been the backbone of our country for generations. From the Chinese who built our railroads, to today’s construction and farm labourers, we owe our economic growth to them.

Investigators assess the scene of a fatal bus crash which killed at least eight migrant workers in Florida on Tuesday 14 May 2024 ( Marion County Fire Rescue)

“We wish that this tragedy serves to amplify the voices of the labourers themselves; their dreams, their lives, and their full humanity. May they rest in power.”

The identities of those involved had not been released on Tuesday evening.

Marion County Sheriff’s Office was forced to clarify to followers on its Facebook page the vehicle involved was not a school bus after rumours quickly spread that children were involved.

The Sheriff called the collision a “tragedy” and said that the Highway Patrol was the best authority to investigate the wreck.

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