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Pickup driver with lengthy record held in Florida bus crash that killed 8 Mexican farmworkers

OCALA, Fla. (AP) — A man with a long record of dangerous driving pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to driving under the influence-manslaughter in the deaths of eight Mexican farmworkers whose bus was sideswiped by his pickup truck in central Florida. Dozens more were injured.

Bryan Maclean Howard, 41, remains jailed without bond for Tuesday’s crash where the Florida Highway Patrol says he drove his 2001 Ford pickup into the center line on a two-lane road and sideswiped a farmworker bus, causing it to veer off the road, strike a tree and flip over.

He told a judge by teleconference from jail Wednesday that he’s a self-employed painter and drywall installer with $700 in the bank, no other assets and no dependents. Howard’s head was bandaged and he wore a protective gown typically given to inmates on suicide watch. The judge denied bond, appointed a public defender and set his next court appearance for next month.

According to his arrest report, troopers say Howard had bloodshot and watery eyes and slurred speech after the crash, which he said he didn’t remember.

He told an FHP investigator that he had crashed his mother’s car into a tree a few days earlier while avoiding an animal, and that on Monday night, he had smoked marijuana oil and took his prescribed medications before bed: two anti-seizure drugs and another for high blood pressure. He woke up about five hours later and was driving to a methadone clinic where he receives daily medication for a chipped vertebrae, he said.

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