Driver Charged with DUI After Fatal Collision Involving Migrant Worker Bus

The driver of a pickup truck that crashed into a bus carrying numerous migrant workers in Florida has been arrested by authorities. The tragic incident resulted in the death of eight individuals and left over 40 others injured, who were subsequently transported to nearby hospitals.

The Florida Highway Patrol has charged Bryan Maclean Howard, 41, with eight counts of D.U.I. manslaughter.

Around 6:30 a.m., a 2001 Ford Ranger unexpectedly veered towards the center line of a highway in north-central Florida. This incident occurred while a bus, with approximately 53 farm workers on board, was traveling down the road. Lieutenant Patrick Riordan provided this information during a news conference.

According to Riordan, it is highly likely that the number of fatalities may exceed eight. Although Howard was one of the injured individuals, his current condition remains unknown as of Tuesday night.

Florida authorities have not yet disclosed the identities of the victims due to the need for next-of-kin notification. This process has been further complicated by the fact that some of the workers on the bus were of international origin. However, Mexico’s foreign affairs secretary, Alicia Bárcena, has identified some of the individuals on social media as Mexican nationals.

According to Marion County Sheriff Billy Gates, when asked if the workers were undocumented, he clarified that they were legally allowed to be in the United States. Sheriff Gates emphasized that these individuals are hard-working and there is nothing wrong with their presence here. He further explained that it is a common practice for migrants to come to the county during the spring season for the purpose of harvesting produce.

According to Florida state troopers, as reported by local station WCJB, the passengers on the bus were on their way to a watermelon farm to start their work for the day. A family-owned farm called Cannon Farms, located about an hour south of Gainesville, announced that it would be closing its doors on Tuesday as a sign of respect for the losses and injuries that occurred earlier in the morning.

Mandatory safety measures to protect laborers during transportation, such as enforcing seatbelt regulations, are frequently overlooked, resulting in tragic outcomes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that transport accidents were the primary cause of death among agricultural workers in 2021.

It remains unclear whether the passengers in the Florida bus were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash.

The Farmworker Association of Florida initiated a GoFundMe campaign to support the victims and their families. As of Tuesday night, the campaign had already surpassed $20,000 out of its $50,000 goal.

The fundraising page emphasized the significance of not overlooking farmworkers, particularly in challenging times. It stated, “Farmworkers tend to be forgotten, but it’s important not to forget farmworkers, especially during such difficult times.”

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