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8 dead, at least 40 injured as farmworkers' bus overturns in central Florida

8 dead, at least 40 injured as farmworkers' bus overturns in central Florida


8 dead, at least 40 injured as farmworkers' bus overturns in central Florida

OCALA, Fla. — A bus carrying farmworkers collided with a pickup truck and overturned in central Florida on Tuesday, killing eight people and injuring about 40 other passengers, authorities said.

The bus was transporting 53 farmworkers when it collided with a truck in Marion County, north of Orlando, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Authorities say the bus swerved off State Road 40, a straight but somewhat hilly two-lane road that passes through farms. It crashed through a fence and ended up on its side in a field. The workers were being transported to Cannon Farms in Dunellon, which has been harvesting watermelons.

Photos taken by the Ocala Star-Banner at the scene show the bus lying on its side with both its emergency rear door and top hatch open. The truck that hit it shows extensive damage to its driver's side.

Federal statistics show that vehicle crashes were the leading cause of job-related deaths among farmworkers in 2022, the latest year available. They accounted for 81 of 171 fatalities.

There is no immediate indication that weather was a factor. It is also not immediately not known if the bus had seat belts.

“We will be closed today out of respect to the losses and injuries endured early this morning in the accident that took place to the Olvera Trucking Harvesting Corp.,” Cannon Farms announced on its Facebook page. “Please pray with us for the families and the loved ones involved in this tragic accident. We appreciate your understanding at this difficult time.”

Cannon Farms describes itself as a family-owned operation that has farmed its land for more than 100 years. The company now focuses on peanuts and watermelons, which it sends to grocery stores across the U.S. and Canada.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the workers who were on the bus are migrants, but a Department of Labor document shows Olvera recently applied for 43 H-2A workers to harvest watermelons at Cannon Farms this month. The company again offered a base rate of $14.77 an hour, with promises of housing and transportation to and from the fields.

The H-2A program allows U.S. employers or agents who meet certain regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals into the country to fill temporary agricultural jobs.

Florida farms employ more H-2A workers than any other state, about 50,000 a year, according to the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association.