8 dead after bus carrying farm workers in Florida hit by truck, whose driver is charged with DUI-manslaughter

May 15, 2024
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Eight people were dead and 40 others were hospitalized after a bus carrying farm workers collided with a pickup truck and overturned early Tuesday in north central Florida, officials said.

The driver of the pickup, Bryan Maclean Howard, survived and was charged with eight counts of driving under the influence-manslaughter, said David Kerner, executive director of the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

“Our sympathies and prayers are with the families of the deceased,” Kerner said in a statement. “Consistent with our duties, the Florida Highway Patrol will conduct both a thorough and exhaustive traffic crash and criminal investigation.”

The deadly collision happened around 6:35 a.m. on a hilly and rain-slicked rural road about 80 miles north of Orlando, the highway patrol said.

The bus, a 2010 International, was heading west on State Road 40 when, “for unknown reasons,” a 2001 Ford Ranger “traveled toward the centerline” and the vehicles sideswiped each other, Highway Patrol Lt. Pat Riordan told reporters.

The bus, which was carrying about 50 people, barreled off the roadway, went through a fence, struck a tree and overturned in a field, Riordan said.

Forty of the bus passengers were hospitalized, Riordan said. At least eight of them were critically injured, according to the Marion County Fire Rescue service, which had initially reported that 53 people had been injured.

Riordan warned there was a “high probability” that the death count could rise because many of the injured were “in very serious condition.”

“At this point, we are conducting a massive traffic homicide investigation,” Riordan said.

The driver of the Ford pickup was also taken to the hospital with serious injuries, he said.

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods told reporters over 30 ambulances were at the scene and described the victims as “hard-working individuals.” He said the rain and the slick road conditions may have been factors in the crash.

Meanwhile, Dominique O’Connor of the Farmworker Association of Florida said it was trying to help local authorities aid the victims and their families, most of whom speak only Spanish and are not from the area.

Emergency workers at the scene of a fatal bus crash
Emergency workers at the scene of a fatal crash of a bus carrying laborers Tuesday morning in Marion County, Fla.Doug Engle / Ocala Star-Banner / USA Today Network

“These workers are all here on H-2A work visas,” O’Connor said.

The H-2A program allows certain U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals into the country to fill temporary agricultural jobs, O’Connor said.

In Orlando, the Mexican Consulate said on X that emergency telephone numbers are being made available for information about any Mexican people potentially involved in the crash or their family members.

The workers were headed to the family-owned Cannon Farms in Dunnellon, NBC affiliate WESH of Orlando reported, citing the highway patrol. 

Cannon Farms announced on social media early Tuesday that it would be closed “out of respect to the losses and injuries endured early this morning in the accident that took place to the Olvera Trucking Harvesting Corp.”

“Please pray with us for the families and the loved ones involved in this tragic accident,” Cannon Farms said. “We appreciate your understanding at this difficult time.”

Calls to Cannon Farms went to a recorded message that said: “This is Cannon Farms. I just wanted to let everybody know that we are going to be closed due to a tragic accident. Please pray for the families of those involved and the losses of loved ones.”

Olvera Trucking did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Ambulances took the injured to several local hospitals. And at the request of first responders, Marion County Public Schools used one of its buses to ferry some of the victims to hospitals.

AdventHealth Ocala said it was treating 16 patients: 12 in the main emergency department at AdventHealth Ocala and four at AdventHealth Timber Ridge ER, Dr. Rodrigo Torres, AdventHealth Ocala’s chief medical officer, said in a statement. 

Two HCA Florida Healthcare facilities in Ocala were also treating patients: seven in critical condition and two stable at HCA Florida Ocala Hospital and one stable at HCA Florida West Marion Hospital. 





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