Memorial for 8 migrant workers killed in Florida bus crash removed

The memorial for eight migrant workers killed in a bus crash on May 14 has been removed.

All eight crosses, standing ten feet tall on the side of State Road 40 in Ocala, are gone. A single metal cross is now the only marker where eight migrant workers lost their lives and dozens of others were injured.

FOX 35 was there as Roberto Marquez worked on the memorial. The Texas-based artist drove 16 hours to do so. FOX 35’s Hannah Mackenzie asked Marquez what he thought happened to the crosses.

"I don’t know… no idea. I would say probably in the dump – part of the trash," Marquez said. "That’s my guess; hopefully I’m wrong."

He isn’t far off. Jackie Flores posted a video documenting the memorial’s demolition on social media. Flores said she wasn’t sure where the removal order came from, but she and several other people took the crosses down.

"The families in Mexico were very upset about it," Flores said. "They messaged me, they told me, ‘Why, why did you take it down?’ I’m like, 'I’m so sorry, we have to follow the rules… we can’t just do what we want’. Regardless, I feel, if we didn’t take them down, someone was going to take them down and throw them away."

Areli Ortiz’s family also helped with the removal. She said everything was boxed up, and the crosses were burned. Mackenzie asked why they were burned.

"Because we had no place to put them," Ortiz said. "We called and asked around and nobody wanted them. I personally didn’t want them to get burned, but the person who decided it… we kinda had to. They didn’t want another accident or distraction. People were just not paying attention and were trying to take pictures and videos instead of pulling off of the road, so they told us we had to take it down; if not, we were going to get fined."

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Florida Highway Patrol, and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office stated they did not give the removal order.

Now, in addition to raising money for the victims and their families, Flores and Ortiz said they are working to get a permanent memorial marker in place.

"I’m going to do my best. I don’t know who I have to talk to, but I want to follow whatever county or policy or whatever it is to put something there," Flores said.

A representative for FDOT said the agency does have a memorial marker program. 

According to the website, "The markers consist of a round 15" diameter aluminum sign panel with white background and black letters mounted to a 5 ft. Steel U-channel post. All markers are uniformly inscribed "drive safely, in memory," followed by the deceased's name."

You can find out more here.