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8 Dead, at Least 40 Injured After Farmworkers' Bus Overturns in Central Florida

Marion County Fire Rescue

Marion County - Tuesday May 14, 2024: Marion County Fire Rescue (MCFR) reports that eight people were killed and 38 others injured this morning when the bus they were in collided with a truck and overturned on State Road 40 in Ocala. After colliding with the truck, the bus swerved off the road, crashed through a fence, and ended up on its side in a field.

All 38 injured were transported to area hospitals according to MCFR Paramedics on scene. Eight of them are in critical condition, and 30 have non-life threatening injuries.

In all, the bus was carrying 53 farm workers, Florida Highway Patrol said in a release. The workers were being transported to Cannon Farms in Dunellon, which has been harvesting watermelons.

It happened north of Orlando along a two-lane stretch of S.R. 40 in an area where the road is straight, but somewhat hilly as it passes through farm land. There is no immediate indication that weather was a factor in the crash.

“Today, we faced a tragic incident on West Highway 40 in Ocala with a devastating bus wreck. It is with heavy hearts that we confirm the loss of eight lives," stated Fire Chief James Banta. "I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to the 35 MCFR units that promptly responded to the emergency. I also want to thank our partners at the Marion County Sheriff's Office, Emergency Management, HCA Ocala, Advent Health Ocala, and the Marion County Public School system for their invaluable assistance in transporting 45 patients to local hospitals. Their coordinated efforts were crucial in managing this crisis.”

Cannon Farms in Dunellon
Cannon Farms describes itself as a family owned commercial farming operation that has farmed its land for more than 100 years. They grow mostly peanuts and watermelons, which are shipped to grocery stores across the U.S. and Canada.

“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.”

The company had recently advertised for a temporary driver to bus workers to watermelon fields. The driver would then operate harvesting equipment. The pay was $14.77 an hour. No one answered the phone at Olvera Trucking on Tuesday afternoon.