Fight Back! News

News and Views from the People's Struggle

Florida vigil for Mexican workers killed in auto accident

By staff

Vigil for Mexican farm workers killed in Florida auto accident.  | Fight Back! News/staff

Apopka, FL – On Wednesday, May 15, more than 40 community members gathered to mourn the tragic loss of eight Mexicano migrant workers killed in an automobile accident early Tuesday morning. The vigil was held at the local headquarters of the Farmworkers Association of Florida.

The accident occurred just after 6:30 a.m. Tuesday morning as the workers were aboard a bus on its way to a local watermelon farm in the town of Dunnellon. Bryan Maclean Howard, while under the influence, veered across the center-line of the two-lane road and sideswiped the bus, causing it to swerve off the road, strike a tree, and flip over. Eight workers lost their lives in the accident and nearly four dozen others were injured, many of whom remain in critical condition.

Those lost ranged in age from as old as 46 to as young as 20. They were fathers, brothers, sons and more. All of the men were H-2A visa recipients, working seasonally here in the U.S. for a meager $14.77 an hour. They hailed from states across Mexico, including Guanajuato, Hidalgo and Estado de México.

Florida, more than any other state, employs over 50,000 H-2A temporary workers annually across various sectors such as agriculture and construction. On top of facing poor working conditions and low wages, temporary workers are more likely to be injured while traveling to and from the workplace. Federal statistics from 2022 show that automotive accidents were the leading cause of work-related deaths for farmworkers, accounting for 81 of 171 fatalities.

The vigil began with an introduction by Yesica Ramírez, general coordinator of the Farmworkers Association. She was followed by Juan Sabines, the general consul of Mexico in Orlando.

Sabines said, “One year ago we were arguing about a state law, SB 1718. The reason is because an immigrant, undocumented, crashed into the vehicle of the son of a very important politician in this state. And the Senate said no more undocumented immigrants driving in this state.”

He added, “But now one year later, that was not the solution. The driver who killed eight amazing guys was American, with a driver's license and the people who passed away were Mexican with H-2A visas. Documented or undocumented has never been the reason for an accident.”

Local faith leaders Sister Ann and Pastor David Maldonado also shared words honoring the lives lost.

The Farmworkers Association of Florida is circulating a GoFundMe to raise funds for the families of the victims:

#ApopkaFL #OrlandoFL #FL #ImmigrantRights #Labor #Farmworkers #FAF