Cyclist dies after being struck by garbage truck equipment

Garbage trucks blamed for other deaths, property damage

CASSELBERRY, Fla. – A cyclist who was struck by a piece of equipment hanging off a passing yard waste collection truck has died from his injuries.

Marvin De Jesus Morales-Perez, 27, was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk along N. Winter Park Drive near Helen Street on May 30 when the garbage truck approached him from behind.

The truck's collection arm and claw, which was extended over the sidewalk, struck Perez and launched his body off the pavement, according to a witness.

"There's nothing he could have done," Rosalind Perez told police. "No warning. The arm thing swung and hit him in the head. "

Morales-Perez was pronounced dead at Central Florida Regional Medical Center two days later, according to newly released police reports.

More than a month after the deadly incident, the case remains under investigation, according to the Casselberry Police Department.

A spokesman for the solid waste collection company Waste Pro USA declined to answer questions about the collision involving its truck and driver.

"It would be inappropriate to comment on the tragic, ongoing situation," Waste Pro USA chief marketing officer Ron Pecora told News 6.

In a video captured by a police officer's body-worn camera, the garbage truck operator explains that he had been driving the vehicle for a little more than a mile before the cyclist was struck.

After picking up a load of landscaping debris from Turtle Mound Drive that was located on the driver's side of the truck, Howard Foster told investigators he stowed the truck's arm and claw.

"The boom, all of a sudden it just must have come down," Foster told police. "I don't know when it came down."

Foster claims he did not know the arm was extended off the passenger's side of the truck until after it struck Morales-Perez.

"I saw the guy on the bike. I was going straight," said Foster. "All of a sudden I heard (a noise). I looked in my mirror. I saw the boom was down and I didn't see the guy."

There is no indication Foster was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and he did not show signs of impairment, according to an incident report.

However, police are waiting for the results of a routine toxicology test before completing their investigation, according to an agency spokesman.

The garbage truck driver told police he had never witnessed the collection boom unexpectedly move off the truck.

"First time," said Foster. "Never had that kind of accident."

Morales-Perez is among several people nationwide killed by sanitation vehicles in the past year.

  • A Pasco County sanitation worker fell off the back of a garbage truck and was run over as it reversed, according to WTSP-TV.
  • A Texas A&M student died after a College Station garbage truck backed over the 21-year-old and her bike, reported KBTX-TV.
  • As a 60-year-old woman was crossing the street in New York, a passing sanitation vehicle fatally struck her, according to the New York Post

Garbage truck deaths, damage rare

Like any other type of vehicle on Central Florida roadways, garbage trucks are occasionally involved in fatal collisions with other vehicles.

But pedestrian deaths caused by garbage trucks have been extremely rare in Central Florida.

Instead, sanitation vehicles are more likely to be the subject of complaints about property damage, a News 6 investigation has found.

In 2016, Orange County Utilities received 540 complaints about property damages caused by garbage trucks, records show.

Those complaints represent an extremely small fraction of the county's 212,000 solid waste customers.

Homeowners have accused trash collectors of damaging parked cars, running over portable basketball hoops left in the street, crashing into the roofs of carports located near the owner's trash cans, knocking down mailboxes and tearing up lawns, county records indicate.

Orange County's solid waste collection contractors - Waste Pro USA, Advanced Disposal and FCC Environmental Services - repaired damage or provided financial compensation through their insurance providers in about 38 percent of those cases, records show.

In some cases, property owners have witnessed the garbage trucks causing damage firsthand or captured the incidents on home surveillance cameras.

In other instances, there has been no way to prove whether a garbage truck or another large vehicle might bear responsibility.

On a few occasions, law enforcement has determined the property owners fraudulently blamed the garbage trucks for pre-existing damage.

"The safety of our employees and the communities we serve is our highest priority," said Advance Disposal spokesman Mark Nighbor. "We actively engage our employees in training, retraining and safety observations to help our drivers safely operate these large vehicles in tight spaces. If any incident occurs, we conduct retraining and coaching to prevent a future re-occurrence."

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.