Family of worker killed in Polk Co. landfill calls for bulldozer operator to be charged

BARTOW, Fla. (WFLA) — The family of a landfill worker who was killed in Polk County and their supporters said they want justice for what they call a “negligent homicide.”

On March 4, 2022, 40-year-old Aaron Henderson of Winter Haven was in a porta-potty when he was crushed by a bulldozer that evening, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Henderson was an employee of CertiTemp, an agency that was contracted by the county.

The sheriff’s office said an unnamed bulldozer operator was moving his rig to park it at the end of the work day when he turned and heard a crumbling sound as he rolled over Henderson’s porta-potty.

According to the deputies, the bulldozer’s blade was elevated and blocked the front view of the rig. The driver also was not aware of the porta-potty inside the staging area, authorities said.

While authorities said there was no evidence of criminal conduct, Henderson’s family and Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk Inc. disagreed.

“We do not agree with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office that Mr. Henderson’s death was an excusable incident,” a BLM release said. “OSHA has very strict heavy equipment safety guidelines and regulations that were not followed or enforced on the evening Mr. Henderson lost his life and we are confident that the evidence that was presented shows inexcusable gross negligence of the bulldozer operator.”

Sheriff Grady Judd told 8 On Your Side Tuesday that while it is sad that Henderson lost his life, the incident was not a criminal event.

“It was a horrific tragedy,” Judd said. “It was an industrial accident, and that’s what it is. We don’t put people in jail for accidents.”

Judd also addressed rumors that Henderson and the bulldozer driver had an ongoing conflict with each other, saying there was no evidence of such a thing at this stage of the investigation.

He also said the driver was deeply affected by Henderson’s death.

“The bulldozer operator was totally devastated, as we all are,” the sheriff said. “No one likes to see any kind of death, but certainly when men are out working, earning a living, to have an industrial death is shocking to say the least.”

While the sheriff’s said there was no evidence of criminality, Judd said that does not mean that someone could not pursue civil litigation to address workplace protocols that led to Henderson’s death.

Even so, supporters of the family said they believe a criminal charge is necessary to remedy the loss of life.

“Mr. Henderson’s mother, Ms. Mable Harvey, is gravely ill, and was recently admitted to hospice care,” the BLM statement said. “Every day that passes and the individual responsible for her son’s death isn’t held accountable and formally charged with negligent homicide, brings more grief to Mrs. Harvey and the entire Henderson family.”

According to BLM advocates, the Henderson family has retained the services of the Benjamin Crump Law Firm to address their grievances. Crump was also recently retained by the family of the teenager who fell from a ride in an Orlando theme park.

Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk Inc. said it planned to hold a press conference with Henderson’s family at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at the courthouse in Bartow.