DUI driver in deadly Florida migrant bus crash that killed 8 denied bond: judge

Bryan Maclean Howard, the pickup truck driver who's accused of colliding with a bus of migrant workers from Mexico on Tuesday, killing eight, made his first appearance in court on Wednesday morning. He's facing eight charges of DUI manslaughter after the accident that happened shortly after 6:30 a.m. on State Road 40 on the outskirts of Dunnellon. 

Howard, who appeared in court with an injury bandage wrapped around his head, was read his charges of eight counts of DUI manslaughter by a judge. She said the court would appoint the 41-year-old a public defender after asking a series of questions to determine if he qualified, like his monthly income, employment status, assets and financial status. 


Bryan Maclean Howard made his first appearance in court on May 15, 2024. He's facing eight counts of DUI manslaughter after a deadly migrant bus crash in Marion County. 

Howard told the judge he's been self-employed for about 7 to 8 months now, doing maintenance work like painting and drywall. He said he brings in about $1,200 a month and has no dependents, no assets and about $700 in the bank. 

Prosecutors asked the judge to hold Howard without bond due to his criminal history, and the judge obliged. 

Howard's previous convictions include leaving the scene of an accident with property damage in 2019, driving with a suspended license in 2013 and 2018, possession of cannabis in 2009 and leaving the scene of an accident in 2006, the prosecutor said in court. FOX 35 was able to confirm several of these prior arrests and convictions through Marion County court records. 


Bryan Maclean Howard, 41, has a lengthy criminal history dating back to the mid 2000s with charges including driving with a suspended license, leaving the scene of a crash, trespassing, drug possession and grand theft, according to court records. In

"Your honor, the State would argue and ask for no bond on these charges given his history of driving with a suspended license," the prosecutor said. "Additionally, there were 33 passengers taken to the hospital, so there may be upcoming charges of further injuries for those passengers. And the defendant admitted to law enforcement that he was in a crash three days prior to this. It's fair that he drives with a suspended license, so to guarantee that he's not operating a motor vehicle, we ask for no bond."

No other details about the crash that reportedly happened a few days ago were immediately made available. 

A representative for the public defender's office asked the judge to grant Howard bond on the basis that he's never failed to appear in court and doesn't have a history that shows he can't abide by any court instructions. 


Bryan Maclean Howard made his first appearance in court on May 15, 2024. He's facing eight counts of DUI manslaughter after a deadly migrant bus crash in Marion County. 

The judge denied Howard bond, and added a few stipulations to his arrest. Howard is not allowed to operate a motor vehicle while the case is pending, nor can he consume or possess any alcoholic beverages, controlled substances or any drugs without a prescription.  

Howard is due back in court on June 18 at 9 a.m. 

Florida bus crash: What happened?

Just after 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday on State Road 40, west of SW 148 Court, a 2010 retired International school bus was transporting 53 farmworkers. A 2001 Ford Ranger truck headed east on the same road sideswiped the bus, according to Florida Highway Patrol. 

After the crash, the bus veered off the roadway and into a fence, hit a tree and overturned, FHP Lt. Patrick Riordan told reporters. 

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Eight people died, and at least 40 were injured in the crash and were taken to nearby hospitals. Seven of them remain in critical condition, while the others had non-life-threatening injuries. Many of those admitted have since been released. 

The identities of the deceased will be released pending next of kin notification. 

"Some of those are also in very serious condition. So there's high probability this may be beyond eight fatalities," Riordan said. "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 today."

Orlando-based Mexican Consul Juan Sabines Guerrero told FOX 35 that all eight migrant workers killed in the crash were from Mexico. The oldest victim was 31 years old and had two young children. 

"It’s one of the worst experiences," Sabines Guerrero said. "They’re not criminals, nor illegal immigrants; they are working… hardworking. We lost – the two countries lost very good people."

According to the Marion County Sheriff's Office, the workers were on their way to Cannon Farms, where they worked as seasonal workers. The company recorded a message on their voicemail, which said: 

"I just wanted to let everyone 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."

Unlike seasonal workers who go home at the end of the day, migrant workers are away from their families for months. They start their work with citrus and watermelons in Florida and then work their way north. However, Jamie Fussel, the Director of Labor Relations for the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, explained that they are here on a specific visa.

"The visa is employer-sponsored, so either a farmer or a farm labor contractor, who's employing them, would start the process," Fussel said. 

Florida has the largest population of H2-A Temporary Agriculture Workers of any state in the nation. 

"There's just been fewer and fewer U.S. workers or U.S. citizens who want to work in agriculture or work out in the fields anymore, but for someone coming from Mexico or Central America, they can find higher wages. They can find work that they're already accustomed to doing, that they're already equipped and skilled to do," Fussel said. 

Over 50,000 came in just last year, and we know at least eight will never return home. 

A vigil for the eight migrant workers killed in the crash is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at 489 NW 110th Ave. in Ocala. It's being hosted by The Ocala Farm Ministry, the Farmworker Association of Florida and the Mexican Consulate. 

FOX 35 reporters Hannah Mackenzie and Marie Edinger contributed to this report.