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Vigil scheduled for eight killed in Marion County bus crash

Debris on State Road 40 west of Ocala following a fatal bus crash, killing eight people on May 14. (Ella Thompson/WUFT News)
Debris on State Road 40 west of Ocala following a fatal bus crash, killing eight people on May 14. (Ella Thompson/WUFT News)

Multiple groups have joined to hold a candlelight vigil Wednesday night to remember the eight bus passengers killed Tuesday morning in Marion County.

The Ocala Farm Ministry, the Farmworker Association of Florida and the Orlando Consulate of Mexico scheduled the event for 6 p.m. at the Apopka Farmworker Association of Florida, 1264 Apopka Boulevard in Apopka, an estimated 90-minute drive south of Ocala.

Over 40 others were injured after Bryan Maclean Howard crossed the center line Tuesday morning in his truck on State Road 40 west of Ocala and sideswiped the bus, authorities said.

Public records show that Howard was living at his family's home, a two-bedroom house in Dunnellon, that property records showed was owned by his family's trust. Two older relatives, Anne and Ralph Howard, also were listed as living there. It wasn't immediately clear whether they were Howard's parents.

Howard made a first appearance on Wednesday in a Marion County courtroom, pleading not guilty to all eight charges of DUI manslaughter. He is being held without bond in the Marion County Jail.

Flowers placed at the scene of the crash on State Road 40 west of Ocala following a fatal bus crash that killed eight people. (Ella Thompson/WUFT News)
Flowers placed at the scene of the crash on State Road 40 west of Ocala after a bus accident killed eight people on May 14. (Ella Thompson/WUFT News)

Two men who live in Howard's Dunnellon neighborhood were shocked were saddened to hear about the crash and the charges against Howard.

“It’s terrible for everyone — all the families and even him,” said Jonathan Cabrel, 44, who has lived in Howard's neighborhood for 23 years. “Hopefully a lot of people learn from it, don't drink and drive.”

Albert Musard, 50, builds above-ground pools with Cabrel and has lived nearby for the past two years.

“It's unusual to see anything happening around here, it's a quiet neighborhood,” Musard said. “They held him with no bond, which I'm happy to hear that."

Authorities will “conduct both a thorough and exhaustive traffic crash and criminal investigation,” said Dave Kerner, the executive director of Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Debris on State Road 40 west of Ocala following a fatal bus crash, killing eight people. (Ella Thompson/WUFT News)
Debris on State Road 40 west of Ocala following a fatal bus crash, killing eight people on May 14. (Ella Thompson/WUFT News)

“Our sympathies and prayers are with the families of the deceased,” he said.

Dozens of first responders assisted at the crash scene Tuesday morning.

Joe Romani, the vice president of the Professional Firefighters of Marion County, said the number of people injured at the scene was overwhelming.

“It’s usually manageable because we show up and there’s one person who’s sick,” he said. “But, to show up and the crew, there would have been five people, and there’s 50 people to take care of. It was extremely overwhelming.”

“The desire to want to help is innate in all of us in the field of first responders and paramedics,” he added. “To feel like you can’t help or to feel like you’re overwhelmed, that can be very shocking.”

Romani said that while the workers might not have understood all of the information conveyed by the firefighters due to a language barrier, the presence of firefighters can provide comfort.

“We drive big red trucks and almost around the world, we dress the same,” he said. “So, the unintentional communication, we can provide comfort and care, hopefully help some of those workers.”

The Professional Firefighters of Marion County have resources available to first responders to try to help with the lasting mental health struggles that might occur after a crash like this. The available options for members range from text-based conversation to a chaplaincy program.

Flowers placed at the scene of the crash on State Road 40 west of Ocala after a bus accident killed eight people. (Ella Thompson/WUFT News)
Flowers placed at the scene of the crash on State Road 40 west of Ocala after a bus accident killed eight people on May 14. (Ella Thompson/WUFT News)

However, it can be especially hard for a department like Marion County Fire Rescue, which has three first responders under 25 years old.

“That’s a lot to put on to a young, growing firefighter or paramedic or first responder,” Romani said. “So, we have to pay special attention to that.”

He said it can take hours to process a single event.

“The impact of being overwhelmed doesn’t hit right away,” Romani said. “Members need a way to reach out and connect when they finally get home and take a shower and then it’s like, ‘Oh, man, that was overwhelming.’”

Liana is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.
Ella is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.