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Driver in crash with bus that killed 8 farmworkers in Florida was in a crash 3 days earlier, judge says

Bryan Maclean Howard was held without bail on DUI-manslaughter charges.
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The driver of a truck that slammed into a bus carrying farmworkers, killing eight people, was in another crash just three days earlier and had taken a cocktail of drugs the day before, according to court records revealed Wednesday.

Bryan Maclean Howard, 41, was ordered held without bail a little more than 24 hours after the crash, which led to his being charged with eight counts of driving under the influence-manslaughter.

Sending him to jail until at least his next court appearance on June 18, Marion County Judge LeAnn Mackey-Barnes said Howard was "in an auto accident at least three days prior to this accident.”

"Given your history of driving history and prior for leaving scene of accident,” Mackey-Barnes said, she had no choice but to remand Howard into custody.

Authorities work at the scene of a deadly crash
The scene of a deadly crash after a bus carrying farmworkers collided with a pickup truck Tuesday near Dunnellon, Fla.Alan Youngblood / AP

After he was read his rights, Howard told Florida Highway Patrol officers Tuesday that he had been smoking marijuana oil through a vape pen with a friend Monday, according to a highway patrol arrest report.

And before he went to sleep after 11 p.m. Monday, he also took the prescribed medications Klonopin, Lyrica and Clonidine, officials said.

Howard, who lives with his parents, told investigators that he woke up at 5 a.m. Tuesday and left at about 6:30 a.m. to go to a methadone clinic in Ocala, authorities alleged.

“When asked about the crash, he stated he did not remember how it happened,” he told highway patrol investigators at about 11 a.m. Tuesday, they said.

“He stated he was driving very carefully because he was involved in a separate crash 3 days prior,” they said. “In this crash, he wrapped his mother’s car around a tree trying to avoid an animal that ran out in front of him.”

A little more than an hour later, authorities said, Howard still had bloodshot eyes and was slurring his speech speaking to highway patrol investigators at AdventHealth Hospital in Ocala.

Howard could not recall how his truck ended up in the wrong lane, crashing into the bus, and he failed field sobriety tests at the hospital, the highway patrol said.

Along with the people who were killed Tuesday, 40 others were hospitalized — eight of them in critical condition — following the early morning crash in Marion County, about 80 miles north of Orlando.

All eight of those killed were Mexican, and all had temporary H-2A visas for agricultural workers, Mexico’s foreign secretary said on X late Tuesday. 

Family-owned Cannon Farms said the bus full of workers, carrying about 50 people, was headed to its location in Dunnellon. The farm was closed Tuesday and Wednesday in light of the tragedy.

During the brief hearing Wednesday, Howard wore a jail smock with a bandage wrapped around his head. He held his shoulder or his arms throughout Wednesday's proceedings.

Mackey-Barnes granted Howard's request for a public defender after he said he makes $1,200 a month doing infrequent construction work and has just $100 in the bank.