SPRING HILL — Ismael Santana was a loving and faith-filled man who took pleasure in providing for his loved ones.
On Thursday, his family struggled as they wondered: How could such a man have been taken away from them so suddenly?
"We couldn't believe it," said sister-in-law Paula Santana. "It was too hard to accept."
Hernando County sheriff's deputies say Santana, 51, an independent truck driver from Spring Hill, was hauling ash at a Cemex cement plant Wednesday morning when he was pinned between a front-end loader and his semitrailer.
Investigators said Santana was driving the first truck of the day to dump a load of ash at the Cemex plant at 10311 Cement Plant Road, off Cobb Road northwest of Brooksville. As he was exiting his truck, the driver of a front-end loader who was moving debris did not see Santana and backed into him, pinning him against the semi's cabin. Authorities did not name the driver.
Cemex employees rendered aid until deputies and Hernando County Fire Rescue officials arrived. Santana was taken to Bayfront Health Brooksville, where doctors pronounced him dead at 10:09 a.m. due to catastrophic injuries.
The Sheriff's Office and the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration are investigating the incident.
Santana's relatives were stunned and saddened by the loss. Tears flowed freely Thursday, as family gathered front of their Spring Hill home.
"Anyone who knew him loved him," Paula Santana said. "All we have is gratitude to him."
She said her brother-in-law was a good Christian, hardworking, kind and a wonderful father and sibling.
"He was a big brother — sort of a father-like figure — to all of us," she said.
Santana leaves behind his wife, Rochelly; two children, Ismael and Krystel, ages 25 and 26; and a tight-knit family.
Paula Santana said they all were trying to stay strong.
Contact Danny Valentine at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. Follow @HernandoTimes.