LONDON, Ontario – Two of the three survivors of a tragic Feb. 6 traffic accident in which 10 Latin American workers perished on Wednesday emotionally expressed their thanks for the support they have received over the past three months and said they wanted to continue to live in Canada.
Peruvians Javier Aldo Medina and Juan Jose Ariza were among the 13 migrant farmworkers aboard a van that hit a truck on a rural road about 140 kilometers (87 miles) west of Toronto.
Ten of the migrants were killed along with the van’s driver, 38-year-old Ontario resident Christopher Fulton.
The third survivor, Edgar Sulla Puma, is hospitalized in a coma in Hamilton, Ontario.
At the small ceremony on Wednesday, the national president of the UFCW Canada union, Wayne Hanley, handed checks for $15,000 to each of the two survivors.
Shortly after the accident, UFCW launched a campaign to collect donations for the accident survivors and the families of the dead.
Hanley told Efe that the fund had collected $200,000 and that next week UFCW will give $15,000 checks to Fulton’s widow as well as to the family of a Nicaraguan worker who perished.
The rest of the money collected by UFCW will go to the families of the remaining nine workers who died, all of whom were Peruvian.
Medina and Ariza gave their accounts of the accident.
They had both arrived in Canada three days earlier to work on poultry farms in the southwestern part of Ontario province. Monday, Feb. 6, was their first day on the job.
Ariza recalled how he had met Medina on the airplane that had brought them from Peru to Canada and how “by chance” on that fateful day he was also sitting day beside him in the back seats of the van that was transporting them to their residence after the workday was over.
While the rest of the workers were trying to sleep, Ariza said that both he and Medina were looking out the window at the scenery when suddenly he saw a truck rushing toward the van in which they were riding.
“I turned around, looked like this and suddenly my soul left my body. I remained for a few seconds looking at the driver, the man, who was horrified,” said Ariza, talking about the moment when his gaze locked with that of Fulton, who died instantly in the crash.
Ariza added that Fulton tried to avoid the collision by turning the wheel but that didn’t work.
Immediately after the crash, Ariza recalled that he called insistently to Medina, who was unable to move until the ambulances arrived.
Ariza and Medina said that three months after the accident they continue to suffer both physical and psychological consequences from the crash and that the doctors have told them that they will never fully recover.
Both men said that they are intending to request permanent residence in Canada “for humanitarian reasons” because in Peru, given their delicate physical conditions, they would not have any way of subsisting and they don’t want to become burdens on their families. EFE