NEW: Other driver charged with DUI-manslaughter in crash that killed eight farmworkers (2024)

A bus carrying farmworkers to a job site crashed and overturned Tuesday morning off State Road 40 West in west Marion County. Eight people died and eight more were critically injured, according to the Florida Highway Patrol and Marion County Fire Rescue. SR 40 West was closed between U.S. 41 and County Road 328 as first responders and investigators continued their work at the scene. The workers were heading to Cannon Farms in Dunnellon when the crash happened, officials said.

GoFundMe account set up

The Farmworker Association of Florida has set up a GoFundMe account to help the victims and their families.

— Austin L. Miller

Arrested driver has a traffic record

According to records on file with the Marion County court clerk, Bryan Maclean Howard was cited for numerous traffic-related offenses from 2004 to 2019, including failure to wear seatbelt, driving on a suspended or expired driver's license, failure to stop at a red light, careless driving and leaving the scene of an accident with property damage.

In the latter case, according to court records, Howard was driving in northeast Ocala and struck a utility pole, splitting it in half. He later told an Ocala police officer he left the scene because he did not have auto insurance, according to an arrest affidavit.

Howard also has been convicted of possessing drug paraphernalia and grand theft.

— Austin L. Miller and Jim Ross

NEW: Other driver charged with DUI-manslaughter in crash that killed eight farmworkers (1)

Update: Other driver in the crash has been arrested

In a news bulletin emailed just before 5 p.m. Tuesday, FHP announced that the other driver involved in the crash has been arrested and held on eight counts of DUI-manslaughter.

The driver was identified as Bryan Maclean Howard, 40, of Ocala. He was driving a 2001 Ford Ranger pickup. Additional details about the arrest were not provided. He was arrested at a local hospital, where he had been taken for treatment.

In the statement, the FHP said only that it will "conduct both a thorough and exhaustive traffic crash and criminal investigation."

— Jim Ross

Advocacy group: Deaths were 'very tragic and needless'

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which describes itself as the nation's largest and oldest Hispanic civil rights volunteer-based organization, issued a statement on Tuesday expressing "profound sorrow" and calling the deaths "very tragic and needless."

"They are the ones who put the food on our tables and nourish the state and our country," said Asia Clermont, Florida LULAC state director, in the statement. "It is too easy to dismiss this as just another accident. Florida must take every possible step to protect its essential workers, who are human beings and the backbone of the state's economy. We ask all Americans to join us in prayer and support for the recovery of the injured and help for the loved ones of those we've lost."

The group said that the bus passengers "were farmworkers en route to a farm in the area, underscoring the critical role these individuals play in sustaining the agricultural sector and feeding our communities."

It further noted that "officials have confirmed that the workers had the necessary documentation to be employed in Florida."

"Our hearts go out to the families of those who have been killed," Clermont says in the statement. "I know what it feels like to experience such a loss, especially when far away from home. As immigrants, we can feel even more vulnerable in times of crisis.

"Florida LULAC wants the affected families to know that we're standing behind our fellow workers and are here to support them in any way we can. They definitely need our assistance, whatever that might be. Also, we will be more than happy to cooperate with the various agencies working on finding out what happened and providing aid to the victims," she adds.

The group said that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is "actively monitoring the situation."

— Jim Ross

NEW: Other driver charged with DUI-manslaughter in crash that killed eight farmworkers (2)

Updates on the patients at local hospitals

As of 3:20 p.m. Tuesday, AdventHealth Ocala had transferred two of its 16 crash patients to other facilities. "The remaining 14 patients in our care are in the process of being discharged from the hospital," a spokesperson said.

HCA Florida Ocala Hospital listed seven crash victims in critical condition and two in stable condition. Its sister facility, HCA Florida West Marion Hospital, had one patient in stable condition.

— Austin L. Miller

Praise for the cooperation on scene

Marion County Fire Rescue Chief James Banta praised the interagency cooperation. He said 35 units from his agency alone responded, working the scene with FHP and other agencies.

“I also want to thank our partners at the Marion County Sheriff's Office, Emergency Management, HCA Ocala, AdventHealth Ocala, and the Marion County Public School system for their invaluable assistance in transporting 45 patients to local hospitals. Their coordinated efforts were crucial in managing this crisis,” Banta said in a Marion County Fire Rescue Facebook post.

'We're heartbroken'

Julie Taylor, executive director of the National Farm Worker Ministry, was contacted by the Star Banner.

"We're heartbroken," she said.

The organization was formed in 1971 and fights for better working and living conditions for farmworkers.

She said when farmworkers are killed or injured in these kinds of situations, her organization worries about several things. For example, many farmworkers don't have health insurance. Also, her agency worries about the families: When the injured people don't work, the families often are left without income. How will the families cope?

— Austin L. Miller

Concerned about the first responders

The Professional Firefighters of Marion County and the International Association of Fire Fighters have reached out to the crew members who responded to the scene, offering assistance during this difficult time.

— Jim Ross

A comment from Cannon Farms in Dunnellon

On its Facebook page, Cannon Farms announced that it will be closed Tuesday out of respect for the crash victims.

The post said the company involved was Olvera Trucking Harvesting Corp.

— Jim Ross

Other fatal crashes in Marion County

Eight is the highest number of fatalities in one Marion County vehicle crash in recent memory. Here's a look at some other recent crashes with multiple fatalities.

— Jim Ross

'My heart goes out to them'

Speaking late Tuesday morning during a press conference at the crash scene, Sheriff Billy Woods said: "My heart goes out to them," in reference to the victims and their families.

Woods said his agency is assisting investigators, especially with Spanish language translation. Officials are trying to notify the victims' families.

The sheriff said the people on the bus are hard working individuals and the crash was a tragedy.

— Austin L. Miller

NEW: Other driver charged with DUI-manslaughter in crash that killed eight farmworkers (3)

Pickup truck driver is in serious condition

The driver of the other vehicle involved in Tuesday morning's crash is hospitalized in serious condition, FHP reported late Tuesday morning.

— Austin L. Miller

FHP: The number of fatalities could increase

Speaking late Tuesday morning during a press conference at the crash scene, an FHP official said it's possible the number of deaths could increase, given the conditions of the critically injured bus occupants.

— Austin L. Miller

More details about the crash

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the crash happened about 6:35 a.m. Tuesday and the location was SR 40 approximately 500 feet west of Southwest 148th Court.

FHP also reports that the bus is a 2010 International bus and the other vehicle involved is a 2001 Ford Ranger.

— Jim Ross

Laborers were heading to a watermelon farm in west Marion County

Officials on scene said the farmworkers worked for a private company and were being taken to a watermelon farm. There is no name on the side of the bus, and the owner of the private company was aboard the vehicle and had to be transported to a hospital after the crash. No additional details were available as of 9:05 a.m.

There were 53 people aboard the bus, officials said. Eight died, eight more were critically injured and the rest had minor or no injuries, but still were taken to local hospitals for evaluation.

— Austin L. Miller

NEW: Other driver charged with DUI-manslaughter in crash that killed eight farmworkers (4)

Updated information on State Road 40 West closure

The Florida Department of Transportation has announced that State Road 40 West is temporarily closed between U.S. 41 and County Road 328.

— Jim Ross

Tuesday morning crash did not involve Marion County Public Schools bus

The bus involved in the crash was not affiliated with the school district. The vehicle is owned by a private company and was transporting farmworkers. The school district did provide a school bus to help transport victims.

— Star Banner staff

NEW: Other driver charged with DUI-manslaughter in crash that killed eight farmworkers (5)

Special FHP team will investigate bus crash

The FHP's SIRT Team will investigate this crash. SIRT is short for Specialized Investigations Reconstruction Team.

— Austin L. Miller

Update: FHP confirms 8 people have died in the bus crash

NEW: Other driver charged with DUI-manslaughter in crash that killed eight farmworkers (6)

The Florida Highway Patrol has confirmed that eight people were killed in the crash and eight more were critically injured. The injured were taken to HCA Florida Ocala Hospital. Ten people were seriously injured. At least 25 occupants suffered minor injuries.

— Austin L. Miller

Here's how the bus crash happened

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the bus was heading west on SR 40 and a brown Ford Ranger was eastbound on the same road. A witness told troopers that for some reason the Ranger moved into the westbound lane and the vehicles sideswiped.

The bus ran onto the south shoulder, struck a board fence and two trees, then overturned, troopers said.

— Austin L. Miller

Marion County Sheriff's Office announces temporary road closure because of crash

The Marion County Sheriff's Office has announced that State Road 40 West is temporarily closed between Southwest 180th Avenue Road and Southwest 140th Avenue as crews respond to the bus crash.

This is a developing story

NEW: Other driver charged with DUI-manslaughter in crash that killed eight farmworkers (2024)
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