2 citrus industry leaders killed in helicopter crash

Author: the associated press

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) – Two Florida citrus industry leaders are among the victims of a helicopter crash in southern Nicaragua.

Officials in Nicaragua said poor visibility caused the crash early Tuesday, killing four people, including Jim Horrisberger of the Florida Citrus Commission and Phil Tope, chief executive at Tampa Juice.

“The citrus industry lost two great men this morning and we all lost two great friends,” said Adam Pressimone, terminal manager at Tampa Juice Service Inc., a subsidiary of the Costa Rican citrus company TicoFrut.

Also killed in the crash was Antonio Lacayo Oyanguren, executive director of TicoFrut’s parent company, Grupo Pellas of Nicaragua, Pressimone told The Ledger (http://bit.ly/1HYt7aC ).

Horrisberger, 63, worked as North American procurement director for the Coca-Cola Company at its Auburndale office and had been a member of the citrus commission since 2010.

In a statement, company officials said, “James was a highly respected leader in the juice business, and he will be greatly missed both professionally and personally by his many Coca-Cola colleagues around the world.”

Horrisberger led the development of a 2013 program offering growers financial incentives to plant 25,000 new grove acres over five years, said Kristen Carlson, former executive director of the Florida Citrus Processors Association.

“He saw the way forward included change. Change is not something the Florida citrus industry looks forward to,” Carlson said.

Tope, 72, had served as chief executive at Tampa Juice since 1993. He made the trip with Horrisberger to visit Grupo Pellas groves, said his brother, Bob Tope.

The brothers, whose father and grandfather also worked in the citrus industry, ran their own citrus brokerage until a major freeze in 1962 wiped them out. Phil Tope went on to work as a buyer for one of the state’s largest growers and packinghouse operators and ran the juice processing operations for a citrus cooperative, Bob Tope said.

TicoFrut’s founder, Carlos Odio, recruited Phil Tope because he needed someone with extensive knowledge of the Florida citrus industry, said Bob Tope.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.