Florida bus crash kills eight, leads to DUI arrest of driver involved

By Rich McKay and Brendan O'Brien

(Reuters) - A bus carrying farm laborers in northern Florida collided with a pickup truck on Tuesday and overturned, killing at least eight people and critically injuring eight others, authorities said.

The driver of the pickup truck, Bryan Maclean Howard, was arrested by Florida Highway Patrol troopers on eight counts of manslaughter while driving under the influence, according to a statement from Dave Kerner, executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

In addition to the eight people killed and the eight critically injured, another 37 bus passengers were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, Marion County Fire and Rescue said in a statement.

The bus crashed through a fence and overturned after side-swiping a pickup truck and careening off the roadway, Florida Highway Patrol spokesperson Steve Gaskins said in a statement.

The workers were headed to pick melons at Cannon Farms in Dunnellon, a small farming community about an hour's drive south of Gainesville, when the bus overturned. Marion County Fire and Rescue units were dispatched to the scene just after 6:30 a.m. EDT (1030 GMT), the department said in a Facebook post.

"Today, we faced a tragic incident on West Highway 40 in Ocala with a devastating bus wreck," wrote Marion Fire Chief James Banta in the post.

Cannon Farms, which operates a commercial farm, said on Facebook that it will be closed on Tuesday "out of respect to the losses and injuries endured early this morning in the accident."

Cannon said the accident "took place to the Olvera Trucking Harvesting Corp," but a representative could not be reached immediately to clarify. It is unclear whether Olvera owns the bus or hired the workers.

"Please pray with us for the families and the loved ones involved in this tragic accident," Cannon said. "We appreciate your understanding at this difficult time."

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago, Rich McKay in Atlanta, Brad Brooks in Longmont, Colorado, and Dan Trotta in Carlsbad, California; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Jonathan Oatis, Aurora Ellis and Deepa Babington)