Truck driver charged with horror bus crash that killed eight migrant workers has history of traffic charges

Bryan Maclean Howard, 41, had a long history of driving offenses prior to Tuesday’s crash that killed eight migrant farmworkers

Amelia Neath
Wednesday 15 May 2024 19:10 BST
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A truck driver charged with eight counts of manslaughter under the influence after a horror bus crash will remain behind bars after his myriad of previous traffic offenses was revealed.

Bryan Maclean Howard, 41, is facing charges after eight migrant farmworkers died in a Tuesday crash at a farm in Florida, the Florida Highway Patrol said in a release. It is unclear what substance police say Mr Howard was intoxicated from.

With his head wrapped in bandages, Mr Howard appeared in court on Wednesday morning, where he was appointed a public defender.

Prosecutors listed his long history of driving offenses and asked he be held without bond, to which a judge agreed.

His name has cropped up on 24 court records, many involving driving-related offenses, between 2003 and 2021, according to state court records seen by The Independent.

Florida Authorities said Mr Howard was driving a 2001 Ford Ranger Tuesday morning when it crossed into the center line on State Road 40 near Ocala.

A farmworker bus was also heading along the road, carrying migrants heading to Cannon Farm in Dunnellon to harvest watermelons.

Bryan Howard, 41, has been charged with eight counts of manslaugter after eight people died in a horror bus crash
Bryan Howard, 41, has been charged with eight counts of manslaugter after eight people died in a horror bus crash (Marion County Sheriff’s Office )

The truck allegedly sideswiped the bus, causing the bus to veer off the road and crash through a fence and a tree before overturning.

The result of the crash left a horrific scene: the entire bus ended up on its side, windows were smashed,? its emergency rear door and top hatch open, while the truck also received extensive damage to the driver’s side.

In total, 53 people were on the bus at the time, with eight killed and at least 40 people injured – many of them hospitalised.

Mr Howard was arrested and hit with a string of charges that day.

Mr Howard told troopers that he had been on his way to a methadone clinic for treatment for a chipped vertebra in his back when the crash occurred, according to an arrest report obtained by ClickOrlando.

Howard’s name appears on 24 court records dating back to 2003. He is pictured in a series of mug shots
Howard’s name appears on 24 court records dating back to 2003. He is pictured in a series of mug shots (Marion County Sheriff’s Office )

He claimed he was “driving carefully” because he crashed his mother’s car into a tree three days earlier while trying to avoid an animal that ran in front of the vehicle, the report added.

He allegedly told investigators that he was with a friend the night before, smoking his friend’s marijuana oil that he got through a medical card before he took his own prescribed medicines, Klonopin, Lyrica and clonidine. He then got around five hours of sleep that night, the arrest report details.

While troopers visited Howard at the hospital after he had been discharged, he underwent a series of sobriety tests that he largely failed, the arrest document shows.

The documents state that Mr Howard could not explain why he allegedly travelled into the wrong lane saying he only remembered wearing his seatbelt and that the airbags in his truck deployed.

Marion County Fire Rescue and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office on the scen assisting victims after a bus carrying farmworkers crashed and overturned early Tuesday
Marion County Fire Rescue and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office on the scen assisting victims after a bus carrying farmworkers crashed and overturned early Tuesday (AP)

In the wake of the deadly crash, the suspect’s string of prior encounters with law enforcement have now come to light, with previous arrests for driving with a suspended license, leaving the scene of a crash and possession of marijuana.

Most recently, Mr Howard was arrested on a charge of driving with a suspended/revoked license in 2021. The prosecutor dropped the charges in that case.

Other charges over the years include careless driving, violation of a red light, violation of a traffic sign and an expired license.

He was also charged with stolen property and grand theft in 2013. Mr Howard was jailed in that case and spent two years on probation.

Mr Howard is next due to appear in court for his arraignment over the deadly crash on 18 June.

Some of the victims killed in Tuesday’s crash have now been identified as Mexican agricultural workers.

The bus carrying 53 farmworkers that crashed and overturned
The bus carrying 53 farmworkers that crashed and overturned (AP)
Emergency workers work the scene of a fatal bus crash carrying farm workers that overturned Tuesday morning
Emergency workers work the scene of a fatal bus crash carrying farm workers that overturned Tuesday morning (AP)

Alicia Bárcena, Mexico’s foreign relations secretary, said on X: “I am sorry to report that a tragic automotive accident happened in Florida with Mexican agricultural workers involved.”

“Our sympathies and prayers are with the families of the deceased. Consistent with our duties, the Florida Highway Patrol will conduct both a thorough and exhaustive traffic crash and criminal investigation,” Dave Kerner, the executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, wrote in the FHP release.

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