Helicopter crash kills 2 Florida citrus veterans

Lakeland resident Jim Horrisberger, a member of the Florida Citrus Commission, and Florida citrus veteran Phil Tope were killed in a helicopter crash early Tuesday in Nicaragua.

“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, who confirmed the deaths.

Tope, 72, had served as chief executive at Tampa Juice since 1993.

Also killed in the crash was Antonio Lacayo Oyanguren, executive director of TicoFrut’s parent company, Grupo Pellas of Nicuragua, Pressimone said.

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, the governing body of the Florida Department of Citrus, since August 2010.

His responsibilities at Coke included purchasing oranges and other fruit for Coke’s Minute Maid juice subsidiary.

Tope spent his career in Florida citrus before joining Tampa Juice, said Kristen Carlson, former executive director of the Florida Citrus Processors Association, who knew both men well through that position.

“Phil worked for a number of important Florida citrus companies, and he’s always been industry-minded,” Carlson said.

Horrisberger was an industry leader beyond his seat on the Citrus Commission, she added.

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

She cited Horrisberger’s leading role in developing a 2013 program offering growers financial incentives to plant 25,000 new grove acres over five years.

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