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Zellwood Man Crushed Under Pallet of Mushrooms

Bruce Edward Stephenson Jr. was driving a forklift carrying several stacked pallets of mushrooms at around 10:25 on Monday evening when the pallets began to sway. The 45-year-old Tavares resident working at the Zellwood location of Monterey Mushrooms Inc. at the time. When he saw the sawing pallets, Stephenson lept from the forklift and tried to run away, but the load collapsed on him before he could escape.

According to the Orange County Sheriff’s office spokesperson, Rose Silva, Stephenson was rushed immediately from the Monterey Mushrooms Inc. plant, located at 5949 Sadler Road, to a hospital. He died shortly thereafter.

At this moment, an investigation is underway, spearheaded by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with the assistance of the Orange County deputies, as to the circumstances surrounding this accident. The person in charge of health and safety coordination for Florida’s Farm Workers Association, Jeannie Economos, has stated that two employees from the Monterey Mushroom group had come to her in order to report the tragic incident, saying that they were concerned about the circumstances surrounding the accident. Subsequently, OSHA filed a $6,000 fine on the Monterey Mushroom company for what is being viewed at this time as deadly violation of allowing employees to engage in a fall hazard in the mushroom gathering space of the plant.

According to the initial report filed by OSHA, at the plant there were employees who were observed continually maneuvering around the mushroom beds, climbing around and up them, and doing this sometimes at a height of eight feet, which is far beyond what is considered safe and reasonable when it comes to stacked pallets.

Brian Hesse, the general manager of Monterey Mushroom, has declined to issue a comment at this time, citing the pending investigation as the reason for his silence.

As the case develops, more information will be shared with the general public. Currently, there has been no legal action taken against the Monterey Mushroom company other than the initial $6,000 penalty, and it is not known whether or not the investigation launched by OSHA will discover cause to level additional penalties or punitive measures against the mushroom growers.

If you have lost a loved one in a Florida construction accident, please contact the Law Offices of James O. Cunningham, P.A. today at 877-FL-INJURY (877-354-6587) to set up a free initial consultation.


James O. Cunningham

Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.

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