Florida driver who crashed into farmworker bus, killing 8, smoked weed, took meds before fatal wreck

The Florida pickup truck driver accused of killing eight migrant farmworkers and injuring dozens in a horror wreck told authorities he’d smoked marijuana oil, took prescription meds and was en route to a methadone clinic before the fatal crash, according to his arrest report.

Bryan Maclean Howard, 41, was nabbed after he allegedly drove his 2001 Ford pickup into the center line on State Road 40 in Ocala and sideswiped the bus early Tuesday, causing it to veer off the road, strike a tree and flip over.

A heavily bandaged Howard pleaded not guilty to a slew of driving under the influence-manslaughter charges during his initial court hearing Wednesday.

After being cuffed and hauled away, Howard had admitted to investigators that he had smoked the weed oil and taken two anti-seizure drugs and medication for high blood pressure the night before the fatal crash, according to his arrest affidavit.

A heavily-bandaged Bryan Maclean Howard, 41, pleaded not guilty to a slew of driving under the influence-manslaughter charges during his initial court hearing in Florida on Wednesday. WFTV9

He said he then woke up five hours later and was driving to a methadone clinic — where he receives daily medication for a chipped vertebra — when he allegedly plowed into the bus.

Howard, who told authorities he doesn’t remember the fatal crash, had bloodshot and watery eyes, as well as slurred speech in the aftermath of the crash, state troopers said. He also failed several sobriety tests, the troopers said.

Howard has a long record of driving offenses — and told authorities he had crashed his mom’s car into a tree while trying to avoid an animal just days earlier, according to the affidavit.

Howard, pictured in his mugshot, had bloodshot and watery eyes, as well as slurred speech in the aftermath of the crash, cops said. Marion County Sheriff’s Office
Howard was allegedly impaired when he crossed his 2001 Ford Ranger into the center line on State Road 40 and sideswiped into the bus, forcing it off the road around 6:40 a.m. 9NEWS

He has had at least three crashes and numerous traffic tickets dating back to 2006, including one citation for crossing the center line, Marion County court records show.

His license has also been suspended at least three times — the latest in 2021 for getting too many citations within a year. In 2013, he was convicted of grand theft and a year later his probation was revoked after he tested positive for cocaine.

The judge denied him bond during Wednesday’s hearing and set his next court appearance for next month.

Meanwhile, the Mexican consulate in Orlando said it was working to support the victims.

The fatal victims were all from Mexico and were in the US temporarily on work visas. 9NEWS
The bus struck a tree and flipped after being swiped by the pickup truck. 9NEWS

Juan Sabines, the Mexican consul in Orlando, told Spanish language outlets that seven workers, including three who were in critical condition, remained hospitalized as of Wednesday.

The seasonal farmworkers on board were on their to work to harvest watermelon when the crash unfolded, authorities said.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Wednesday that 44 Mexican farmworkers were on the bus, hired by a Mexican American farmer to work on the watermelon farm under H-2A visas.

Six of the dead have been identified so far including: Evarado Ventura Hernández, 30; Cristian Salazar Villeda, 24; Alfredo Tovar Sánchez, 20; Isaías Miranda Pascal, 21; José Heriberto Fraga Acosta, 27; and Manuel Pérez Ríos, 46.

With Post wires

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