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Bulldozer crushes worker inside porta potty at landfill, Polk County says

A 40-year-old Winter Haven man died in the apparent tragic accident.

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — A worker was crushed by a bulldozer while inside a porta potty Friday at an area dump.

It happened around 5:10 p.m. at the Polk County North Central Landfill.

The sheriff’s office said 40-year-old Aaron Henderson, of Winter Haven, was killed. Henderson worked for CertiTemp – an employment agency contracted by the county, according to investigators.

Another CertiTemp employee was operating the bulldozer, explained the sheriff’s office, and Henderson was the assigned to be a “spotter” – responsible for guiding dump truck traffic on the ground.

At the end of the workday, deputies say the bulldozer operator was driving up an embankment to park for the night.

“While doing so, the front blade of his bulldozer was elevated 3-4 feet off the ground, and he could not see directly in front of him due to the blade obstructing his view,” a sheriff’s office spokesperson explained in an email.

As he reached level ground, investigators say the bulldozer driver began turning and heard a loud noise. He then realized he’d gone over a porta potty he didn’t know was in the area, the sheriff’s office said.

“He immediately exited the bulldozer and ran towards the porta potty to see if anyone was inside of it,” the sheriff’s office spokesperson said. “At that time, he observed Henderson unresponsive inside the porta potty.”

A foreman responded and called 911.

Authorities are investigating the death – but say the initial investigation points to a “tragic, industrial accident.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was alerted and is looking into the situation.

“Last night’s incident was a tragic accident,” wrote Martha Santiago, chair of the Board of County Commissioners, in a statement. “Our Board asks that you keep the family and friends of the deceased in your thoughts and prayers.”

This is the first death at the North Central Landfill, county leaders say.

“The Landfill is a dynamic, industrial environment with movement of hundreds of trucks coming to unload heavy equipment at the Landfill all day long,” County Manager Bill Beasley wrote in a statement. “We have never experienced anything like this here.”

CertiTemp has been a vendor of Polk County for eight years, and was hired on a labor contract to provide a machine operator for driving a bulldozer and a spotter at the Landfill. CertiTemp says its contract does not involve any operations regarding trash collection in Polk County.

CertiTemp was waiting Monday for a response from OSHA regarding the investigation.

This death comes just weeks after Polk County leaders making changes to resolve the issue of irregular and delayed trash pickups in parts of the county.

In February, Polk County reached an agreement with its contracted waste haul to operate under an emergency plan, FCC Environmental Services, The plan will exist under the local state of emergency previously declared by the Board of County Commissioners.

The central premise of the plan is to suspend recycling services in the area of Polk County serviced by FCC (west of U.S. Highway 17) through April 1. Recycling will resume on April 4.

10 Tampa Bay digital reporter Katie Jones contributed to this story.

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