Alleged DUI driver in deadly Florida migrant bus crash that killed 8 pleads not guilty: court records

Bryan Howard, the man accused of driving drunk and colliding with a bus of migrant workers last month, killing eight and injuring others, has pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to Marion County court records. 

The 41-year-old did not appear in court on Tuesday, but his attorney – a public defender who was appointed to him by a judge – entered his plea of not guilty. Howard is facing eight counts of DUI manslaughter and 11 counts of DUI with serious bodily injury. 

Now that Howard has entered a plea, a date has been set for a pretrial conference on Oct. 8, followed by jury selection on Oct. 14, online court records show. 

Bryan Maclean Howard (Photo: Marion County Jail)

Howard remains in custody in Marion County after the incident in mid-May that happened shortly after 6:30 a.m. on State Road 40 on the outskirts of Dunnellon. A retired International school bus transporting 53 farmworkers to their seasonal employment at Cannon Farms was sideswiped by a 2001 Ford Ranger truck headed east on the same road, 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. 

Eight people died, and at least 40 were injured in the crash and were taken to nearby hospitals. 

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