Cousin saw Lake Worth woman get killed by lightning

Maria Francisco Pascual's cousin saw her die.

At about 2 p.m. Wednesday, the Lake Worth woman was coordinating workers at a farm southwest of Boca Raton when a bolt of lightning from a storm system struck and killed her.

Pascual, 53, left a husband, three daughters and two sons, and 12 grandchildren, sister Alicia Pascual said Thursday.

"She was passionate of what she was doing there. That was her living," Pascual said. "She's a sharing person. There's no words that can describe how beautiful she is."

Maria Pascual's sister said she grew up in Guatemala. While she was in her 20s, like so many in her native country, she came to South Florida for economic opportunity. In the quarter-century-plus since then, Maria was a migrant worker, in South Florida most of the year and in North Carolina in the summer, her sister said.

Alicia Pascual said Maria has worked for about 15 years for C.W. Hendrix Farm, along Loxahatchee Road far west of Parkland in far northwest Broward County. Her brother is a crew chief who coordinates the buses that bring workers to the farm, and a cousin also works there.

Maria started in the fields, picking peppers, and had been promoted to time keeper, her sister said.

On Wednesday, Alicia said, Maria was in the field, one hand holding her cellphone and the other a portable device into which she entered readings each time a worker dumped a bucket of produce into a bin.

Alicia Pascual said the cousin saw the bolt hit Maria.

"It struck her and she fell," Alicia said. She said one of two other workers hit by the bolt had been atop a truck and fell from it. Alicia said she did not know either of the two injured workers.

Alicia, who is a certified nurse assistant, said she did not know if the electric devices her sister held attracted the bolt, or if they magnified its deadly impact. She said she has not heard yet from either authorities or managers of the farm.

The family has not set a date for the funeral, but it will be at Brown Funeral Home in Lantana, Alicia Pascual said.

She said the family hopes to be able to cover expenses but might seek community help.

A person who answered the phone Thursday morning at Hendrix said he could not comment and would give no information or identify himself. He would not say what products the farm produces. A national produce webpage says the farm grows cucumbers, eggplant and bell peppers.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office identified the other two workers who were struck as Blanca Bertila Alvarenga and Alfonzo Lopez Ordonez. The two are both from Palm Beach County, according to authorities. 

Ordonez, who is in his 20s, was taken to Broward Health North with serious injuries. Alvarenga, who is described as in her 40s, “showed up” at JFK Medical Center in Atlantis with injuries that were not life-threatening, according to the Broward sheriff’s office. Spokepersons for the two hospitals didn’t return calls Thursday.’

A spokesman for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Thursday that OSHA is investigating the incident, which was in effect a workplace fatality.

Wednesday’s death is the second in Florida this year from lightning; the first was in April near Lake City. The state regularly tops the nation in lightning-related deaths. It recorded five of the 16 deaths nationwide in 2017.

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