POLK CITY - A fruit harvesting company and a man who supplied workers to the company have been fined a combined $3,284 for the events leading to the accidental death of a 2-year-old boy Dec. 30.

Ruben Velasquez was killed in a Polk City orange grove owned by Kermit Weeks and harvested by Orlampa, a company owned by Weeks. Weeks is the owner of Fantasy of Flight.

A report from a federal investigation into the child's death said children were present with their families in the grove on a regular basis.

Ruben had slipped away from the cab of a pickup owned by his father, Salvador Velasquez, who was picking oranges and unaware the toddler had wandered under the rear of the truck. The elder Velasquez yelled to his 10-year-old son, also named Salvador, to move the truck to another group of trees. The truck, nearly full of oranges, crushed Ruben to death.

Orlampa and Dennis Pate Sr., who supplied workers to Orlampa, have paid the $3,284 fine to the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division.

But the fine was not levied because of the death of the boy, said Michael Wald, a Labor Department spokesman in Atlanta. It was because the 10-year-old boy was working in violation of federal labor laws.

Federal law allows children as young as 12 to work in agricultural fields as long as it's during school hours. State law raises the minimum age to 14.

Wald said the federal Wage and Hour Division had no jurisdiction in the death of Ruben Velasquez because he wasn't working. He said the toddler's presence in the grove with his family was likely a state matter.

A spokesman for the Florida Department of Children & Families said he could not comment on whether the department had investigated the boy's death.

Weeks did not return calls to Direct Gates seeking comment for this story, and Pate could not be reached.

The Department of Labor report listed several problems with the harvesting operation, including paying the main worker of a crew, usually the driver, for what oranges had been picked rather than paying each worker. The report also said the citrus operation did not keep track of the time each worker worked.

Pate, who supplied workers for the grove, denied he ever witnessed children working in the grove, the Labor Department's report said.

"However, interviews show that Mr. Pate did know that children were present in the groves. In fact, Mr. Pate routinely would advise that the children should not be in the grove, but he never mandated anyone to leave as a result of having their children in the groves," the report said.

Jesse Douthit, an Orlampa vice president, told Direct Gates in a brief interview that he was unaware children were in the grove and that a 10-year-old was driving a truck. He said it would have taken a fortune to fight the federal finding, "and the parents should certainly bear some responsibility for what happened."

"This is behind me," Douthit said. "I m over it. I grieved and I changed the way I do business. It's time to move on."

Ruben's family has been trying to move on, too, but that's been difficult. Five months after the accident, the family still struggles to overcome its grief and start earning a living again, said Irma DeLeon, the toddler's mother. Her husband, Salvador Velasquez, declined comment.

"My husband just found a job picking watermelons. He started today," DeLeon said in a telephone interview this week. "It's been really tough, but we're doing a little better. My father is helping us pay the bills and we found counseling services in Spanish for the family."

DeLeon is still unemployed.

She was surprised to hear the amount of money the companies had been fined. "That is so little .<0x200A>.<0x200A>. We were never told not to bring the kids to the grove on weekends or holidays."

Ruben died on a Saturday.

Yesenia Mojarro, reporter for Vision Latina, contributed to this story. Rick Rousos can be reached at rick.rousos@directgates.com or 863-802-7516.