Farm Worker Bus Crash Leaves 8 Dead, 40 Injured in Florida

NTD Newsroom
By NTD Newsroom
May 14, 2024US News
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Farm Worker Bus Crash Leaves 8 Dead, 40 Injured in Florida
A bus carrying 53 farmworkers that crashed and overturned near Ocala, Fla., early on May 14, 2024. (Marion County Fire Rescue Dept. via AP)

An incident in Marion County, Florida, involving a retired school bus carrying farm workers and a pickup truck resulted in eight confirmed fatalities and 40 injuries, the Florida Highway Patrol said in a press conference on May 14.

Lt. Pat Riordan, public affairs officer for Florida Highway Patrol Troop B, said initial information is that around 50 people were on the bus and were workers en route to a local farm.

The 2010 International school bus was traveling west on a two-lane road in Dunnellon, Florida around 6:30 a.m. and was side-swiped by an eastbound Ford pickup truck that had crossed the centerline. The collision caused the bus to veer off the road, crash through a fence, hit a tree, and overturn, Mr. Riordan added.

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said the county, which is the fifth largest in Florida, has a very large agricultural industry and it was common for this time of year to have “migrant workers” working in the area.

He said he did not want to give “misinformation” but early information indicated that the workers all had the necessary paperwork to be working legally in the state.

“They’re hard-working individuals and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with them being here,” Mr. Woods added.

NTD Photo
Emergency personnel respond to the scene of a deadly crash near Dunnellon, Fla., on May 14, 2024. (Alan Youngblood/AP Photo)

Officials Give Updates

Mr. Riordan highlighted that several injured individuals are in serious condition, suggesting that the death toll could rise. The driver of the Ford pickup also sustained serious injuries and was hospitalized.

“We are conducting a massive traffic homicide investigation,” Mr. Riordan said. “We have a full team and then some here on the scene and our traffic homicide investigation team is some of the best at what they do. This will be a very long and lengthy and thorough investigation. We do not get in a hurry to conclude what happened until we have all the facts. And with that, I can tell you that it’s going to be probably six months at least before we conclude factually what transpired here today.”

The Florida Highway Patrol’s Commercial Motor Vehicle Bureau is also involved in inspecting the bus.

The road will remain closed until all necessary on-site investigations are completed, including mapping, measurements, and photography. Mr. Riordan emphasized the importance of thoroughness in the investigation to determine the precise cause of the accident.

Mr. Woods commended the rapid and effective response from emergency services. Over 30 ambulances and 40 apparatuses were deployed to the scene to assist survivors. Mr. Woods assured the public of the thoroughness and competence of the Florida Highway Patrol in conducting the investigation.

Mr. Woods mentioned the language barrier as a significant challenge, given that many of the bus occupants did not speak English well. He has provided bilingual support staff to aid in the process. The sheriff also addressed concerns about traffic growth in the county, noting ongoing efforts to monitor and manage traffic to prevent such tragedies.

Mr. Woods seemed to dispel initial concerns about the workers’ legal status and stressed there was no reason for law enforcement to be involved with them beyond the accident investigation.

Several questions remain unanswered, such as the precise conditions leading to the crash, the potential role of external factors like sun glare or road conditions, and whether or not the bus had seatbelts.

Mr. Woods noted that determining these factors is part of the ongoing investigation. The status of the drivers and whether they have been interviewed is still unclear, as is the age range of the victims.

Both Mr. Riordan and Mr. Woods expressed their condolences to the families of the victims.

Mr. Woods offered heartfelt sympathies, recognizing the sudden and shocking nature of the loss. He urged the community to come together and support those affected.

The primary focus now is on making next-of-kin notifications, a process complicated by the potential geographic location of the victims’ families if they are not in the area.

From The Epoch Times

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