‘My brother was everything to me:’ Farmworker remembers sibling killed in Florida bus crash

Dozens of farmworkers remain in the hospital after they were injured in a deadly bus crash in Marion County on Tuesday.

Eight people died and 38 others were injured when troopers say another driver caused the bus to veer off State Road 40 and overturn.

The community held a vigil for them on Wednesday in Apopka, honoring the lives lost with signs of hope and praying for healing for the others.

RELATED: Driver arrested for DUI in Marion County bus crash that left 8 dead, dozens injured: FHP

Most of the victims' families are hundreds of miles away in Mexico. The Mexican Consulate had the tough task of calling them to tell them about the deadly crash.

But some had family here. One man came to work in the U.S. with his brother and will return home alone after his sibling died.

"It was heartbreaking to see the devastation," said Ana Lamb with LULAC, who went to help the farmworkers navigate tragedy.

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The men were all staying in a hotel in Gainesville and left for work early Tuesday morning, heading to go pick watermelons at a nearby farm.

"We only come to work to give our family a better future to bring food home," said Jose Juan Ventura Hernandez. We met Jose Juan inside the hotel.

Tuesday was his day off, but his younger brother, 31-year-old Evarado Ventura Hernandez, was killed in the crash.

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"I am broken, and so is my family," he said. "My mother, my father is going to be sick."

The brothers are from Oaxaca, Mexico. Jose Juan had the gut-wrenching task of telling his parents and Evarado's wife that he would not be coming home. Evarado leaves behind a one-year-old baby girl.

"My brother, he was everything to me. He was my right hand.  My support. We always supported each other. I lost part of my life when he passed away," said Evarado. 


Jose Juan tells me he now feels responsible for taking care of his brother’s family, too.

He said the others killed were from Hidalgo, Mexico.

"They were new to the company and I don't know them. But I still feel the pain they feel for their families, because it's a loss that nobody wants. No one," he said.

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Ana Lamb with LULAC said all the men killed had children. She explained the migrants come on a special visa for three months to work on farms and then return home at the end of the season. She said for many of them, it’s been difficult to navigate a tragedy in a foreign country.

While they may be temporarily in the U.S., she said their work has a permanent impact.

"We need to treat them with respect and honor them because the job they do is a job nobody wants to do," she said.

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Jose Juan said he has felt the support from the community as he prepares to bring his brother's remains home to his family.

"Thank you to everyone who supports immigrants who stress their lives on the farms. So we can have a better future and your tables are never empty with fresh watermelon," he said.

Jose Juan said he and his brother had worked for this company for nine years, coming back and forth for work.

LULAC said the farmers’ association has started raising money for the families impacted.


Courtesy: FHP

Troopers arrested the driver of the pickup truck who they say caused the crash, Bryan Howard. He now faces DUI manslaughter charges.

He admitted to being on prescription drugs for pain and sedation and to smoking marijuana oil the night before the crash. Troopers tell FOX 13 he failed numerous field sobriety tests.