8 killed, 38 hurt when bus carrying farmworkers struck in Florida; pickup driver arrested

Eight people died and 38 others were injured Tuesday morning when a bus carrying farmworkers overturned in Central Florida after it was struck by a pickup truck, according to WFTV.

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Driver of pickup arrested

Update 5:26 p.m. EDT May 14: According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the driver of the Ford Ranger pickup truck involved in the deadly collision with a bus carrying farmworkers has been arrested.

Bryan Maclean Howard, 41, was arrested at 1:47 p.m. EDT. He was charged with eight counts of driving under the influence manslaughter, WFTV reported.

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

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Bryan Maclean Howard

Original report: The crash happened at 6:35 a.m. on State Road 40 in Marion County, WFTV reported, citing the Florida Highway Patrol. Troopers said a 2010 International bus was carrying 53 farmworkers when it was hit by a 2001 Ford Ranger, according to the news station and authorities.

The bus was traveling west and the pickup truck was going east when the truck “for unknown reasons traveled toward the center line, and the vehicles had a collision of the sideswipe-type manner,” Lt. Pat Riordan, public information officer for FHP’s Troop B, said at a news conference.

The bus went into the grass on the shoulder of the road and through a fence. It struck a tree before overturning, Riordan said.

“At this point, we have eight confirmed fatalities,” he said, adding that those injured included people in “very serious condition.”

“There’s high probability this may be beyond eight fatalities,” he said.

Officials initially said that at least 40 people were injured, though Marion County Fire Rescue later told WFTV that 38 people suffered injuries, including eight who were in critical condition.

Among those injured was the driver of the Ford pickup truck, whose injuries appeared to be serious. It was not immediately known whether anyone else was in the truck at the time of the crash.

“At this point, we are conducting a massive traffic homicide investigation. We have a full team and then some here on the scene,” Riordan said. He added, “This will be a very long and lengthy and thorough investigation. We do not get in a hurry to conclude what happened until we have all the facts, and with that I can tell you that it’s going to be probably six months, at least, before we conclude factually what transpired here.”

The bus was carrying workers to Cannon Farms in Dunnellon, where the farm has been harvesting watermelons, The Associated Press reported. Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said migrant farmworkers were among the victims.

“We’re a very big agricultural county, so this time of year, we always have migrant workers that are in our county that are in buses just like this,” he said. He added that all the people on the bus appeared to be in the country legally based on “everything that I have been told at this point.”

“There’s no reason for me to be involved with these individuals,” the sheriff said. “They’re hard-working individuals, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with them being here.”

Riordan said authorities were working to make next-of-kin notifications, a process that he said can be complicated when trying to reach people outside of the area.

Woods shared condolences Tuesday to the families impacted by the deadly crash.

“It’s going to be hard on them, and rightfully so because they just lost a loved one,” he said. “My heart goes out to them. I pray that the good lord will give them whatever peace that he can to make them through this.”

He added, “I’m confident, we will have answers for the family to be able to give them closure of why this crash happened today.”

Authorities continue to investigate.

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