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Florida farmworker bus overturns, killing 8, injuring dozens: NPR

Emergency personnel work at the scene of a fatal crash Tuesday in Marion County, Florida. The Florida Highway Patrol said a bus carrying farmworkers overturned, killing several people and injuring other passengers.

WFTS via AP


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WFTS via AP


Emergency personnel work at the scene of a fatal crash Tuesday in Marion County, Florida. The Florida Highway Patrol said a bus carrying farmworkers overturned, killing several people and injuring other passengers.

WFTS via AP

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

The bus was carrying 53 farmworkers about 6:40 a.m. when it collided with a truck in Marion County, about 80 miles north of Orlando, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Authorities say the bus swerved onto State Road 40, a straight but somewhat hilly two-lane road that passes through farms. He crashed into a fence and ended up on his side in a field. Workers were transported to Cannon Farms in Dunellon, which harvests watermelons.

Photos taken by the Ocala Star-Banner at the scene show the bus lying on its side with its rear emergency door and top hatch open. The truck that hit him has significant damage to the driver’s side.

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

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

Cannon Farms describes itself as a family-owned commercial farming operation that has been farming its land for more than 100 years, now focusing on peanuts and watermelons, which it sends to grocery stores across the United States and Canada.

No one answered the phone at Olvera Trucking Tuesday afternoon. The company had recently announced it was looking for a temporary driver to transport workers to the watermelon fields. The driver would then operate the harvesting equipment. The pay was $14.77 per hour.

It was not immediately clear whether the workers on the bus were migrants, but a Labor Department document shows that Olvera recently asked 43 H-2A workers to harvest watermelons at Cannon Farms this month- this. 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 U.S. 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 per year, according to the Florida Fruit & Vegetal Association.

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