PORT RICHEY, FL — They often work in stealth, under the cover of darkness, coming and going through alleys and near homes.
They collect the things others toss and drive it all away.
But not without risks.
Six minutes before sunrise on Friday, a sanitation worker with J.D. Parker & Sons, Inc. fell off the left rear corner of a garbage truck as it was backing up, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The truck then ran over him. Dantrell Gray, 25, of Spring Hill later died at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point.
His boss described Gray as a very nice guy and a hard worker.
"He showed respect for the job, and he showed respect for me," said Dave Parker, president of J.D. Parker and Sons, a New Port Richey-based garbage collection company. "I liked him very much."
Friday's day started like any other, Parker said. Gray, fellow loader Steven Gourlay, 24, and driver David Sibley, 40, both of Port Richey, were on their usual route through west Pasco.
Gray fell as the truck was backing up on Bourbon Street near Tipton Avenue, in unincorporated Pasco near the intersection of State Road 52 and Little Road. The incident is still under investigation, troopers said.
"I believe we're ranked in the top five in the world of the most dangerous jobs," Parker said. He listed risks workers face every day: being hit by cars, falling off the truck and even having chemicals explode in the back of the truck.
"There's a lot of ways to get hurt doing this. We make the job as safe as possible … and sometimes unfortunate things happen."
Gray's family, some of which may live in Arkansas, couldn't be reached Friday.
Parker said much of the crew hadn't learned of Gray's death by midday, as some were still out on their routes. Of the ones who knew, some were taking it harder than others.
"It's a bitter taste of reality, and it makes everyone stop and think," Parker said.
It was not the first time in company history someone had died after being run over by a truck. In 2010, J.D. Parker, 68, who ruled over Pasco's oldest garbage franchise, which is heading into its 68th year of operation, was killed that way, too.
The elder Parker, Dave Parker's father, was performing maintenance on a truck in the company compound when it rolled forward and crushed him.
Does Gray's death bring back memories?
"It doesn't help," Parker said.
PASCO COUNTY – A Spring Hill man died today (April 14) of injuries he received when a garbage truck backed over him, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Dantrell Gray, 25, of Spring Hill, died at Bayonet Point Hospital where he was taken after the incident.
Mr.Gray was standing on the exterior of a 2003 Freightliner FL80 truck driven by David Sibley, 40, of Port Richey. Sibley was backing the truck, which was operated by J.D. Parker and Sons, west on Bourbon Street. Mr. Gray fell into the roadway and the truck backed over him, troopers said.