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8 migrant workers killed, dozens injured in central Florida crash

At least eight migrant farm workers were killed and dozens more were hospitalized after the bus their were aboard crashed Tuesday in central Florida. Photo courtesy of Marion County Fire Rescue/Facebook
1 of 5 | At least eight migrant farm workers were killed and dozens more were hospitalized after the bus their were aboard crashed Tuesday in central Florida. Photo courtesy of Marion County Fire Rescue/Facebook

May 15 (UPI) -- At least eight migrant workers were killed and several others were seriously injured Tuesday morning when the bus they were aboard was sideswiped by a pickup truck on a central Florida highway.

Authorities told reporters during a press conference that the bus with 53 people aboard was taking the documented workers to a farm when at about 6:35 a.m. EDT a Ford pickup truck traveled toward the center line on Florida's Highway 40 in Marion County, causing the two vehicles to collide.

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Lt. Pat Riordan, public affairs officer for Florida Highway Patrol, said the vehicles crashed in a "sideswipe-type manner."

The bus was forced off the road, down the grass shoulder, through a fence and into a tree, which caused it to flip, he said.

Marion County Fire Rescue said in a statement that 34 patients had been hospitalized, with eight in critical condition.

Riordan warned that some had suffered "very serious injuries," and that there was a "high probability" the death toll of eight would rise.

The driver of the truck has been identified as 41-year-old Bryan Maclean Howard. He was arrested at about 1:47 p.m. and charged with eight counts of driving under the influence resulting in manslaughter, Florida Highway Patrol said in a statement.

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Riordan had originally said the pickup truck had traveled to toward the center for "unknown reasons" and a "massive" homicide investigation had been launched that would take at least six months before all the facts are known.

"At this point, we are conducting a massive traffic homicide investigation," Riordan said. "This will be a very lengthy and thorough investigation. I can tell you that it's going to be probably six months, at least, before we can conclude factually what transpired here today."

The identities of the victims were being held pending next-of-kin notification, authorities said.

Alicia Barcena, Mexico's foreign affairs secretary, said in a statement that some of the farm workers in the crash were Mexican citizens.

The Mexican consulate in Orlando was on the scene to support nationals and provide consular protection, she said.

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said his agency was assisting in providing Spanish-language translators.

Woods told reporters that all migrants involved in the crash had the right to work in the United States.

"Everything I have been told at this point, they all have what they need to be here. There's no reason for me to be involved with these individuals," he said. "They're hard working individuals. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with them being here."

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