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

The driver of a truck that slammed into a bus carrying farmworkers, killing eight people, was in another crash just three days earlier and taken a cocktail of drugs the day before, court records revealed on Wednesday.

Bryan Maclean Howard, 41, was ordered held without bail a little more than 24 hours after the crash that led to him facing eight counts of driving under the influence-manslaughter.

While sending Howard to jail until at least his next court appearance on June 18, Marion County Judge LeAnn Mackey-Barnes noted that the suspect 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 (Alan Youngblood / AP)
Authorities work at the scene of a deadly crash (Alan Youngblood / AP)

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

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

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

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

“He stated he was driving very carefully because he was involved in a separate crash 3 days prior. 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 allegedly slurring his speech while speaking to highway patrol investigators at Advent 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 given at the hospital, according to the highway patrol.

Along with the fatalities on Tuesday, 40 others were hospitalized — 8 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 visa for agricultural workers, the Mexican foreign secretary announced 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 on Wednesday, Howard wore a jail smock with a bandage wrapped around his head. He held his shoulder or arms throughout Wednesday's proceedings.

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

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