HOMESTEAD, FLA. (WSVN) - A day out in the blazing sun took a tragic turn for a farm worker, and his family says high temperatures are to blame.
In an effort to spread awareness for working conditions for agricultural workers, a memorial was held after one died from excessive heat while working.
The Farmworker Association of Florida held the memorial for 29-year-old Efraín López-Garcia in Homestead, Wednesday morning.
In attendance at the event were his family, representatives of the Guatemalan Consulate, representatives from Miami-Dade County, representatives from the Farmworker Association of Florida and several health experts.
Efraín was a farm worker who lost his life on the job earlier in July.
“I was in Jacksonville, and the person who was working with him called me. He let me know what had happened to my brother,” said the farm worker’s brother, Jeremías López-Garcia, as he spoke through a translator.
Jeremías described the moments he was told about his brother’s death.
“Yes, that he felt sick. They didn’t tell me much; according to them, he felt sick,” he said. “His co-worker was with him, and he said he took him to the shade and gave him water. He said he felt better then. His co-worker went to lunch, and when he he got back, my brother wasn’t there. He went looking for him and found him laying there.”
Now his family is trying to figure out how to get his body back to Guatemala for a burial.
“Yes, it’s going to be hard,” Jeremías said. “It’s expensive, and we live in a place very far from the city.”
Representatives with the Farmworker Association of Florida believe excessive heat is what led to Efraín’s death.
“The co-worker was saying, ‘No one even told me to call 911.’ It didn’t even occur to him; no one told him about this, and it’s because we need to educate our community,” said Yvette Cruz with the Farmworker Association of Florida.
They are now warning other workers to know the signs.
“Know the symptoms: nausea, excessive sweating, disorientation,” said Cruz.
The organization is also pushing for legislation to protect workers who spend hours working in the heat.
On Tuesday, the Miami-Dade County Commission gave initial approval for new heat standards for outdoor workers. It still has to pass a committee vote and final vote before it becomes law.
“Then it will be the first such law in Florida, and it will be the strongest such law, if it passes as is, in the entire nation,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
The Farmworker Association of Florida has been working in Tallahassee trying to get statewide legislation passed. If that doesn’t happen, they will gladly take legislation that passes in Miami-Dade.
Efraín’s family has created a GoFundMe page to assist them with the costs of moving his body to Guatemala for a proper burial. If you’d like to make a donation, click here.
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