Driver of truck involved in Florida bus crash that killed 8 farm workers charged with DUI manslaughter

The driver of a pickup truck involved in a Tuesday morning crash that killed eight farm workers and left at least 40 people injured in north-central Florida has been charged with eight counts of “Driving Under the Influence - manslaughter,” according to a news release from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

The 2010 International Bus carrying “approximately 53 farm workers” and a 2001 Ford Ranger sideswiped each other around 6:35 a.m., about 15 miles west of Ocala, the Florida Highway Patrol said in a statement.

The Ford, “for unknown reasons, traveled toward the center line” before the vehicles struck each other, Lt. Patrick Riordan of the Florida Highway Patrol said during a news conference at the scene. The bus then left the roadway, went through a fence and overturned.

Bryan Maclean Howard, the driver of the Ford Ranger, was arrested Tuesday afternoon, Dave Kerner, the executive director of the highway safety department, said in a statement. CNN has not yet been able to determine if Howard has an attorney.

Eight people are dead while 45 injured were taken to medical facilities, including eight in critical condition, James Lucas with Marion County Fire Rescue said earlier in the day.

“There’s a high probability this may be beyond eight fatalities,” Riordan said, noting some of the injured, including the driver of the pickup truck, are in “very serious condition.”

“Identities of the deceased will be released pending next of kin notification,” Kerner said in his statement. “Our sympathies and prayers are with the families of the deceased. Consistent with our duties, the Florida Highway Patrol will conduct both a thorough and exhaustive traffic crash and criminal investigation.”

Footage captured by CNN affiliate WESH showed the bus – which Riordan said was taking the workers to a farm in the area – lying on its side in a field, with first responders’ vehicles parked nearby, their lights flashing.

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods indicated authorities believe the bus passengers were migrant workers, telling reporters, “We’re a very big agricultural county. So this time of year, we always have migrant workers that are in our county, that are on buses just like this.”

In a news conference Tuesday evening, Juan Sabines, the Mexican consul in Orlando, said the victims were all from Mexico and were in the United States on temporary agricultural worker visas.

“Please pray for these nationals,” Sabines said. “We hear a lot of bad things of the immigrants all the time, in the reality, these people (are) good people. (They are) very good people, young people.”

“They stay in this country just for work, with (a) visa,” he added. “These (are) very good people and now they lost the main support of their family.”

“With regret, I confirm the death of 8 agricultural workers,” said Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Secretary Alicia Bárcena Tuesday in a post in Spanish on X.

Bárcena said her country’s consul “will provide all the support to our compatriots and their families.”

Woods noted there were challenges with language barriers, but said bilingual sheriff’s office personnel and support staff were assisting in the investigation.

The National Transportation Safety Board is monitoring the situation, it said, and the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration similarly said it was aware of the crash.

“Our sincere thoughts are with the victims, their families, and the community as FMCSA assesses currently available information in support of state and local safety officials,” an agency spokesperson said.

Westbound lanes on Highway 40 will be closed “for most of the day,” the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said on its Facebook page, asking motorists to take alternate routes.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

CNN’s Ana Melgar Zugina, Gregory Wallace and Melissa Alonso contributed to this report.

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