Driver arrested in deadly Florida migrant bus crash facing additional charges

Bryan Maclean Howard, the pickup truck driver accused of colliding with a bus of migrant workers from Mexico in a deadly Marion County crash earlier this month, appeared in court again on Friday.

The state attorney's office tacked on an additional charge of DUI with serious bodily injury, of which he faces 11 counts. 

Howard, 41, was initially charged with eight counts of DUI manslaughter. In Howard's first court appearance last week, prosecutors said it was possible that more charges could be added due to the number of people on the bus who were injured in the crash. 

The state attorney's office and the Marion County Jail log confirmed these charges because of the new injuries. During Friday's hearing, Howard informed the judge that he had obtained legal representation. 


Fifty-three migrant workers were on their way to Cannon Farms, where they worked as seasonal workers on the morning of May 14. At least 40 of them were injured in the crash, some of them transported to local hospitals with injuries ranging from critical condition to non-life-threatening injuries. 

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

The prosecutor said in court that 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. FOX 35 confirmed 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

Florida bus crash: What happened?

Just after 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 14, the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) said Howard crashed into a 2010 retired International school bus that was transporting 53 farmworkers. 

Troopers said he was driving a 2001 Ford Ranger when it crossed the center line and sideswiped the bus on State Road 40, a straight but somewhat hilly two-lane road passing through horse farms. 

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

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Eight people died, and dozens 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. 

Howard was arrested on charges of driving under the influence of manslaughter.

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: 

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

"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 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 seasonal workers came to Florida last year.

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