Florida farm workers killed after pickup truck side-swipes bus

Florida bus crash
The labourers were on their way to work at a melon farm in Dunnellon

At least eight people were killed and more than 40 others hospitalised after a bus carrying farm workers in northern Florida collided with a pickup truck and overturned.

The driver of the pickup truck survived the wreck and was later charged with eight counts of manslaughter while driving under the influence, officials said.

Officials said the labourers were on their way to pick melons at Cannon Farms in Dunnellon, a small farming community about 80 miles northwest of Orlando, when the bus overturned.

The bus crashed through a fence and rolled after side-swiping a pickup truck and careening off the roadway, said Steve Gaskins, a spokesman for Florida Highway Patrol.

The deadly accident occurred at around 6.35 am on a hilly and rain-slicked rural road, the department said.

Officials said the pickup truck, a 2001 Ford Ranger, “travelled toward the centerline” of the road and collided with the bus.

Police photograph pickup truck at Florida bus crash scene
The driver of the pickup truck has been charged - Doug Engle

The bus barrelled off the road, crashed through a fence, struck a tree and overturned in a field, according to Lieutenant Pat Riordan from the Florida Highway Patrol.

A total of 53 people were on the bus at the time of the accident. In addition to the fatalities, at least eight passengers are reported to be critically injured.

Given the severity of their condition, there was a “high probability” that the death toll could rise, Lt Riordan said.

“At this point, we are conducting a massive traffic homicide investigation,” he said.

Florida bus crash scene
The sides of the bus crumpled as it rolled - Octavio Jones

The other 37 passengers were taken to hospitals for minor injuries.

The driver of the pickup truck was also taken to the hospital with serious injuries, Lt Riordan said.

“Our sympathies and prayers are with the families of the deceased,” said David Kerner, executive director of the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle department.

“Consistent with our duties, the Florida Highway Patrol will conduct both a thorough and exhaustive traffic crash and criminal investigation.”

Cannon Farms announced it would be closed on Tuesday “out of respect to the losses and injuries endured early this morning in the accident”.

“Please pray with us for the families and the loved ones involved in this tragic accident,” the farm said.

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