Man accused of killing 8 farm workers in DUI crash denied bond during first appearance

MARION COUNTY, Fla. — The man accused of a deadly DUI crash that killed eight farm workers in Marion County made his first appearance in court Wednesday.


9:25 a.m. update:

Bryan Howard asked for a public defender after describing his financial situation.

Howard told the judge he’s been self-employed for the last seven months, makes around $1,200 a month, and has around $700 in the bank.

The judge granted his request to have a public defender.

A request was made for a bond which was denied by the judge.

The judge also ordered that Howard not be allowed to operate a motor vehicle while the case is ongoing.

Channel 9 has a crew inside of the courtroom and will provide updates on Eyewitness News.

Original report:

Bryan Howard is currently sitting in the Marion County Jail.

The 41-year-old is accused of being under the influence this Tuesday morning when he killed at least eight people, and this isn’t the first crash he’s accused of causing.

Channel 9 found a long criminal history that includes a prior arrest for another one.

What started as a normal trip to work ended in a mass tragedy on Tuesday.

Around 6:30 a.m., investigators said 41-year-old Bryan Howard was under the influence when he side-swiped a bus that was bringing 53 migrant workers to a watermelon farm in Marion County.

“They’re supposed to be out working, supplying for their families and my neighbor who was drunk and killed them,” said Landon Barnes who lives next to Howard.

According to FHP the bus veered onto the shoulder of the roadway, hit a tree, and went through a fence -- before it flipped over -- along State Road 40.

Read: Man driving pickup in Marion bus crash charged with 8 counts of DUI manslaughter

Eight people were killed.

At least 38 others were taken to the hospital with injuries.

We spoke with Barnes who recently lost loved ones to a drunk driver.

“It’s unsettling knowing he was driving around drunk a full-blown adult not thinking about anybody,” Barnes said.

Read: Orlando’s Mexican Consulate seeks information about Marion County bus crash victims

Channel 9 stopped by Howard’s home. The light was on, and someone was home but they would not come to the door.

“I wanna move out i don’t want to be around it that’s terrifying,” said Mary Zappone who is also Howard’s neighbor.

Channel 9 also dug into Howard’s criminal history.

“It’s surreal I’ve been thinking about it all day,” said Zappone.

Read: Weather Alert Day: Strong storms, hail & isolated tornado threat possible Wednesday

Over the last 20 years -- he has been arrested twice on drug charges -- as well as for grand theft and driving without a license.

Howard was also found guilty of leaving the scene of a prior crash.

“Somethings got to be done or else this is going to keep happening,” said Zappone.

“It’s unsettling to know that your neighbor could take so many lives,” said Barnes.

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