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Pickup truck driver in Florida bus crash that killed 8 farm workers smoked marijuana oil the night before, authorities say

<i>Marion County Sheriff’s Office via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Bryan Maclean Howard faces eight counts of DUI manslaughter in Tuesday's bus crash.
Marion County Sheriff’s Office via CNN Newsource
Bryan Maclean Howard faces eight counts of DUI manslaughter in Tuesday's bus crash.

By Rebekah Riess and Dakin Andone, CNN

(CNN) — The man accused of driving under the influence and causing the deaths of eight farm workers in a crash in north-central Florida told officers he smoked marijuana oil the night before the incident, an arrest report says.

Bryan Maclean Howard, 41, faces eight charges of DUI manslaughter stemming from Tuesday’s fatal crash, in which authorities said the 2001 Ford Ranger he was driving traveled toward the center line along Highway 40 west of Ocala and struck a bus carrying more than 50 farm workers.

The bus left the roadway, went through a fence and overturned, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. In addition to the eight dead, at least 40 people were injured.

Howard pleaded not guilty on Wednesday, online records show. He has been denied bond. CNN has reached out to the public defender’s office for comment.

The six victims identified in the arrest report were Evarado Ventura Hernández, 30; Cristian Salazar Villeda, 24; Alfredo Tovar Sánchez, 20; Isaías Miranda Pascal, 21; José Heriberto Fraga Acosta, 27, and Manuel Perez Ríos, 46.

Howard told authorities he smoked marijuana oil with a friend the night before the crash, according to the report, and also told police he took three prescribed medications before going to bed around 11:30 p.m.

Citing Howard’s involvement in a car accident “at least three days prior” to the bus crash, a state judge Wednesday also stipulated he is not allowed to operate a motor vehicle while the case is pending, nor may he consume or possess alcohol, a controlled substance or a drug without a prescription.

Howard said he did not remember how the accident happened and he was “driving very carefully” because he was involved in the car accident days before, the report says.

A prosecutor Wednesday asked the judge to deny bond, in part based on Howard’s criminal history. She listed a litany of convictions, many stemming from driving-related infractions and all confirmed by state court records, including that Howard was:

• Found guilty in 2019 of leaving the scene of an accident with property damage

• Twice convicted – in 2013 and 2018 – of driving while his license was suspended, canceled or revoked

• Convicted of grand theft in 2013

• Convicted of leaving the scene of an accident in 2006

CNN has reached out for comment to the public defender’s office. Howard’s next court date is set for June 18.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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