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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Marion County bus collision and rollover leaves eight dead, more than 30 hospitalized

Pickup driver arrested on eight counts of DUI-manslaughter

<p>Two Marion County Fire Rescue firefighters respond to a bus crash on West Highway 40 outside Ocala on Tuesday, May 14, 2024.</p>

Two Marion County Fire Rescue firefighters respond to a bus crash on West Highway 40 outside Ocala on Tuesday, May 14, 2024.

Early Tuesday morning, a bus carrying 53 farm workers rolled over after crashing into a tree on West Highway 40 outside Ocala. The Marion County Fire Rescue declared it a “mass casualty incident.”

Eight people were declared dead on-scene, and approximately 40 were transported to nearby hospitals, with eight people in critical condition, according to a Marion County Fire Rescue Facebook post.

Seven people refused transport to a hospital, said Marion County Public Safety spokesperson James Lucas.

Bryan Maclean Howard, 41, sideswiped the bus with his truck, according to a Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) news release.

The bus later drove off the road, through a fence and rolled on its side, according to the release.

The cause of the collision is “for reasons to be determined,” said FHP Lieutenant Patrick Riordan in the news release.

Howard was arrested and faces eight counts of DUI-manslaughter. Howard was found guilty three times for driving with a suspended license, according to court records.

The bus was on its way to Cannon Farms, a family-owned watermelon and cantaloupe harvester located in Dunnellon, Florida. 

“We will be closed today out of respect to the losses and injuries endured early this morning in the accident that took place at the Olvera Trucking Harvest Corp,” Cannon Farms said in a Facebook post

Marion County Fire Rescue (MCFR) units arrived on-scene at 6:46 a.m. MCFR declared the accident a “mass casualty incident,” and more units were dispatched to the scene, according to a MCFR Facebook post.

“Today, we faced a tragic incident on West Highway 40 in Ocala with a devastating bus wreck,” said MCFR Chief James Banta in the post. “I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to the 35 MCFR units that promptly responded to the emergency.” 

West Highway 40 is closed off from S.W. 180th Avenue through S.W. 140th Avenue, with detours for those traveling Eastbound and Westbound of S.R. 40.

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Lee Ann Anderson

Lee Ann Anderson is a sophomore journalism major and The Alligator’s Summer 2023 criminal justice reporter. In her free time you can catch her reading articles, talking to her cat or losing her mind.

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