A group of migrant farm workers gathered Monday to bury one of 11 men killed in last week's horrific crash in southwestern Ontario.
The crash, one of the worst in Ontario’s history, happened last Monday when a passenger van carrying 13 migrant workers collided with a truck at an intersection near Stratford, Ont.
Monday’s funeral was for Juan Castillo. He was from Nicaragua while the other victims in the passenger van were Peruvian.
All had come to Canada as migrant farm workers to help their families back home. The crash happened shortly after the workers left a poultry farm where they were vaccinating chickens.
"It could have been me in that van that day," said Jorge Sanchez, a migrant worker from Peru who knew Castillo. "They were our family."
Police say the van failed to obey a stop sign at the intersection and was struck from the side by a truck whose driver, Christopher Fulton of London, Ont., was also killed.
Three of the workers riding in the van remain in hospital.
Working to help families back home
The driver of the passenger van — who was among those killed in the crash — did not hold a driver’s licence rated for the number of passengers in the van.
Sanchez said the crash has left the community of migrant workers devastated.
"I had an appointment to get my driver’s licence, so I didn’t go to work," Sanchez told CBC’s Ivy Cuervo on Monday. "It’s horrible. Something I would have never imagined. We know we all have to die one day, but not like that."
Jose Santillan said the workers shared a camaraderie that came from working together for the common purpose of helping their families back home. The Peruvians killed all came to Canada from the same neighbourhood in Lima. Some were related.
"What we earn in our home country is not enough to support your family," he said. "What we earn in Peru can't be compared to what we make here in Canada."
Sanchez was upset by media reports that suggest the workers had to suffer through inhumane working and living conditions.
"Our goal has always been to help bring more friends and family to work here," he said. "To help our families back home. We are proud of what we do. Our lives here are good."
None of the workers who attended Monday’s funeral have visited the crash site, saying it’s too painful.
Peruvian migrant worker Deivid Veraste has been working in Canada for one year and eight months. He said the workers won’t quit their jobs in spite of the tragedy.
"We'd like to be with them but if we leave, everything here would fall apart," he said. "We've worked so hard to help the company grow. It would be like disrespecting all those who died."