Feds to investigate fatal lightning strike
Federal agency to investigate
As family and friends mourned Maria Francisco Pascual, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it is investigating the death of Pascual and injuries of two other farm workers.
A federal agency will investigate the death of a Lake Worth woman who officials say was killed by lightning while working in a Parkland farm field.
Maria Francisco Pascual and two other people were in the field Wednesday when the bolt of lightning came, killing her. The two other people were injured; they were identified late Thursday as Blanca Alvarenga, who is in her 40s, and Alfonzo Ordonez, who is in his 20s.
Because the case involves a work-related death, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration will investigate, spokesman Michael D’Aquino said Thursday.
Pascual’s cousin saw her being hit by lightning, according to Pascual’s sister, Alicia Pascual, 35, of Lake Worth. It happened at 2:10 p.m. at C. W. Hendrix Farms at 12210 Loxahatchee Road, authorities said.
She worked her way up in the workplace, first starting picking peppers, then keeping tabs on how many vegetables workers picked. On Wednesday, she was holding her cellphone in one hand, and in the other hand, a device that helped track everyone’s pickings, Alicia Pascual said.
“She was passionate about her job and what she does,” she said.
Francisco Pascual, 66, a relative from Fort Myers, added, “She was a lovable, honorable woman.”
Maria Pascual’s brother also worked with her at Hendrix Farms, Alicia Pascual said. He is a crew leader, who takes workers on bus from Palm Beach County to Parkland, she said.
Maria Pascual’s cousin was distraught over seeing the lightning strike, she said. “He’s in a state in shock,” she said.
It was unclear whether the electronic devices Maria Pascual was holding contributed in any way, she said. “We don’t know that right now,” she said. “They’re going to do an autopsy and examine her.”
The other two lightningstrike victims, Alvarenga and Ordonez, reportedly were working nearby. “The lightning hit another worker who was on a truck,” Alicia Pascual said, citing the cousin’s account. “He fell from the truck onto the ground.”
A representative for C. W. Hendrix Farms couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday despite a voice message left at a listed number.
Maria Pascual moved from Guatemala to the U.S. nearly three decades ago, her family said. She and her family first lived in Arizona before relocating to Palm Beach County about 20 years ago, Francisco Pascual said.
Maria Francisco Pascual will be taken to Guatemala for her burial after a funeral service is held in Palm Beach County, her family said. She and her husband had three girls and two boys, in addition to 12 grandchildren, relatives said.
When Francisco Pascual heard of the tragedy, he drove from Fort Myers to be with the rest of the family Wednesday night. They were grieving in the family’s cozy home, where two framed landscape pictures of Guatemala hung on the walls. Children’s toys were in nooks and shelves were filled with photos of children. Her 3-year-old grandniece played with a stroller while a cartoon played on TV.
Flowers still sat on the kitchen table with a happy birthday sign hanging above. Maria Pascual’s birthday was May 1.
Ordonez was taken in critical condition to Broward Health North in Deerfield Beach; his condition was not released Thursday. Alvarenga showed up at JFK Medical Center with injuries that were not lifethreatening.
The lightning-strike death was the second in Florida this year, and it happened just days after the official start of the rainy season.