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A 19-year-old farmworker killed in a Florida bus crash was saving money to get married, his mom says

Eight Mexican men who were in the U.S. through a temporary agricultural workers program were killed this week, and two others are in critical condition.
Authorities work at the scene of a deadly crash
The scene of a deadly crash after a bus carrying farmworkers collided with a pickup truck Tuesday near Dunnellon, Fla.Alan Youngblood / AP

QUERÉTARO, Mexico — One of the Mexican farmworkers killed in Florida when a pickup truck sideswiped their bus had arrived in the U.S. only 15 days before to work and save money for his marriage, his mother said.

Alfredo Tovar Sánchez, 19, who came to the U.S. through a temporary workers program, never found out that his fiancée is two months pregnant, his mother, María Sánchez, said in an interview this week with Telemundo News.

“I feel I can’t continue without my son,” she said through tears at her home in Mexico. “I’ve been left with so much pain. I don’t know that I can live with this pain.”

Sánchez said her son’s plan was to spend two months in Florida harvesting melons so he could save enough money to help build a house and get married.

Family and friends gathered at Sánchez’s home in an impoverished area in central Mexico on Wednesday to grieve her son, who lived there with her, his five sisters and his fiancée.

Sánchez said she was worried that her son’s 17-year-old fiancée would face many challenges once the baby is born.

“If they arrested the man who is responsible, then all I ask for is justice,” Sánchez said.

Alfredo Tovar Sanchez selfie
Alfredo Tovar Sánchez.

Eight of the 44 farmworkers on the bus died and seven were hospitalized, according to the Mexican consul in Orlando, Juan Sabines Guerrero. Two were in critical condition Thursday.

Sánchez was among six of the deceased identified by authorities. The others are Evarado Ventura Hernández, 30; Cristian Salazar Villeda, 24; Isaías Miranda Pascal, 21; José Heriberto Fraga Acosta, 27; and Manuel Pérez Ríos, 46.

The farmworkers were on their way to harvest watermelons at a farm in Dunnellon, Florida, when a pickup struck hit their bus at 6:40 a.m. Tuesday.

Like the other farmworkers on the bus, Tovar Sánchez was in the U.S. under the H-2A temporary agricultural workers program, intended to help U.S. farmers fill temporary jobs.

With the H-2A visa, farmworkers cannot be in the U.S. for more than a year and they cannot bring family with them. Most of the workers involved in the crash do not have relatives in Florida, according to farmworker organizations.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the workers had been hired by a Mexican American farmer to work on the watermelon farm. He said the Mexican consulates in Miami and Orlando were working to help support the victims.

The driver of the pickup truck, Bryan Maclean, 41, was arrested and pleaded not guilty Wednesday to driving under the influence-manslaughter. He had been in a crash just three days earlier and had taken a cocktail of drugs hours before Tuesday’s accident, it was revealed in court.

Karen Patricio, the central Florida organizer for the Farmworker Association of Florida, said her group is trying to make sure the injured workers receive the medical and mental health they need.

“This was a super tragic accident. For someone who is foreign, to even our health care system, this entire thing is exhausting,” Patricio said. “The conditions the majority of these workers work in is terrible already. So adding the layer of the accident and the traumatic value that it has, is just indescribable.”

Issa Osorio reported from Mexico and Carmen Sesin from Miami.