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Florida Citrus Executives Killed in Nicaragua Helicopter Crash

Nicaragua army recovering bodies from the Rio San Juan. Photo LA PRENSA/Oscar Navarrete
Nicaragua army recovering bodies from the Rio San Juan. Photo LA PRENSA/Oscar Navarrete

TODAY NICARAGUA (Reuters) – Two Florida citrus industry executives were killed in a helicopter crash in Nicaragua along with the CEO of Costa Rican citrus company TicoFrut, who was the son-in-law of a former Nicaraguan president, company officials said on Wednesday.

Jim Horrisberger, 63, North American procurement director for Coca-Cola Co’s global juice business, was killed along with Phil Tope, 72, chief executive of Tampa Juice Service Inc, when their helicopter went down on Tuesday in southern Nicaragua, company officials said.

Antonio Lacayo, 67, chief executive of TicoFrut, also was killed in the crash. He was the son-in-law of Violeta Chamorro, who served as president of Nicaragua from 1990 to 1997.

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“It’s a huge loss for everybody,” said Adam Pressimone, terminal manager at Tampa Juice, a subsidiary of TicoFrut.

Lacayo served as minister of the presidency in Nicaragua in the 1990s and is credited with helping steer a politically delicate transition at the end of a decade-long war between the left-wing Sandinista Front for National Liberation and U.S-backed Contra insurgents.

According to media reports in Nicaragua, the three men died along with the pilot when their helicopter crashed into the San Juan river shortly after take-off.

The bodies of Tope and the pilot were recovered but the search continued on Wednesday for Horrisberger and Lacayo, according to the media reports.

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TicoFrut is a large orange grower supplying Coke’s Minute Maid brand. Horrisberger and Tope were examining groves for the upcoming harvest, Pressimone said.

Horrisberger, who previously worked in the juice business for Cargill Inc, was a member of the Citrus Commission, the governing body of the Florida Department of Citrus, according to his biography on the department’s website.

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