PORT RICHEY — They often work under the cover of darkness, coming and going through alleys and near homes. But their job is not without risks.
Six minutes before sunrise on Friday, a sanitation worker 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 was taken to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, where he was pronounced dead.
His boss described Gray as a 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 garbage collection company. "I liked him very much."
Friday's day started like any other, Parker said. Gray got to work around 1 a.m.. Then he, 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, near State Road 52 and Little Road. They were about 45 minutes from finishing their route, Parker said.
The incident is still being investigated by the FHP.
"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 could not be reached for comment 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.
This is not the first time J.D. Parker and Sons lost someone on the job. In 2010, J.D. Parker, 68, who ruled over Pasco's oldest garbage handling franchise, was also killed by one of his own garbage trucks.
The elder Parker was performing maintenance on a truck in the company compound when it rolled forward and crushed him.
Dave Parker said Friday's incident brought back painful memories of his father's death.
Times staff writer Samantha Putterman contributed to this report. Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @josh_solomon15.