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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

No bond for Ocala man accused of DUI manslaughter in deaths of 8 farmworkers

A driver accused of causing Tuesday’s accident on West State Road 40 that left 8 dead and over 30 others injured was denied bond this morning due to his extensive history of criminal traffic convictions and incidents, including an accident he caused just this past weekend.

Bryan Maclean Howard, 41, was arraigned on Wednesday morning in Marion County Court. just over 24 hours after his pickup truck allegedly sideswiped a bus carrying over 50 farmer workers heading to Cannon Farms in Dunnellon.

Bryan Maclean Howard awaits arraignment in Marion County on Wednesday morning. (Photo: Marion County Sheriff's Office)
Bryan Maclean Howard awaits arraignment in Marion County on Wednesday morning. (Photo: Marion County Sheriff’s Office)

The accident left eight individuals dead, eight others with critical injuries, and more than 30 others in need of medical attention.

On Wednesday, Howard appeared at his arraignment covered in bulletproof vests and sporting a bandage around his head. He requested a public defender before answering questions about his self-employment asked by Marion County Judge LeAnn Mackey-Barnes.

Howard told the judge that he was self-employed, that he had $700 in his bank account, and that his business, BHM Maintenance, made about $1,200 a month from painting and drywall work. He told the judge that he had no assets and no dependents before she verified that he qualified for a public defender.

Bryan Maclean Howard is accused of eight counts of DUI manslaughter.

As the arraignment continued, the State Attorney’s Office made a case to deny Howard bond by reading a list of his previous charges into the record.

According to Marion County jail records, Howard, who is from Ocala, has been convicted of at least 19 felonies, misdemeanors, and traffic violations over the past 20 years. That includes a suspended license driving conviction, a parole violation, and leaving the scene of a crash, according to county records.

Howard was also allegedly responsible for another accident just three days prior to Tuesday’s fatal crash.

On Wednesday, the judge took all of his past transgressions into account.

“Given the nature of the charges, and given the possibility for the pending charges, right now this court is going to hurt you on a no bond on all eight counts, sir,” said Mackey-Barnes. The judge went on to strip Howard of his ability to operate a vehicle or consume alcohol or non-prescription drugs.

Bryan Maclean Howard was arraigned in Marion County Court on Wednesday morning.
Bryan Maclean Howard was arraigned in Marion County Court on Wednesday morning.

“You were in an automobile accident at least three days prior to this accident. You are not allowed to operate a motor vehicle while this case is pending, sir,” said Mackey-Barnes. “And you are not allowed to consume or possess any alcoholic beverages, any controlled substances, or take any kind of prescription drugs without a prescription.”

Howard’s next court date is June 18 at 9 a.m.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Tuesday’s accident took place on W State Road 40, a few hundred feet west of SW 148th Court, at around 6:35 a.m.

The bus, which was a 2010 International Bus, was transporting approximately 53 employees of a local farming company when it was sideswiped by Howard’s 2001 Ford Ranger pickup truck.

Eight people were killed after their bus was involved in an accident on SR 40 on Tuesday morning.
Eight people were killed after their bus was involved in an accident on SR 40 on Tuesday, May 14.

After the collision, the bus traveled off the roadway, went through a fence, and overturned.

Dozens of emergency units from the Marion County Fire Rescue, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Ocala Fire Rescue, and other agencies responded to the scene. Throughout the day, authorities released additional details about the incident, including photos from the scene.

Emergency personnel respond to fatal accident on W SR 40
Multiple units responded to the fatal accident on W SR 40 this morning.

According to the FHP, the identities of the deceased will be “released pending next of kin notification.”

Crews help individuals injured in fatal accident on SR 40 on Tuesday morning
Emergency personnel remove an individual from the scene of a fatal accident on W SR 40 on Tuesday morning. (Photo: Ocala Fire Rescue)

The accident led to W. SR 40 being shut down from SW 180th Avenue Rd to SW 140th Avenue for hours as officials investigated the scene.

The workers were en route to Cannon Farms, which is located at 11801 SW 180th Avenue in Dunnellon. The farm closed operations on Tuesday and Wednesday out of respect for those lost.

“We will be closed today out of respect to the losses and injuries endured early this morning in the accident that took place to the Olvera Trucking Harvesting Corp.” reads a statement from the farm. “Please pray with us for the families and the loved ones involved in this tragic accident. We appreciate your understanding at this difficult time.”

In the hours after the accident, a GoFundMe was established by the Farmworker Association of Florida to raise $50,000 for the farmworkers and their families.

As of 1 p.m. on Wednesday, the fund has raised over $41,000.

To contribute, visit the Farmworkers’ GoFundMe.