Bumble Bee Foods and two employees charged after worker cooks to death in tuna oven
Bumble Bee Foods and two employees were charged Monday in the death of a tuna plant worker who was burned to death in an industrial oven.
Prosecutors said the food manufacturer willfully ignored safety rules, which led to the death of 62-year-old Jose Melena at a Santa Fe Springs processing plant, reported the Los Angeles Times.
Authorities said Melena entered the 35-foot oven Oct. 11, 2012, to make a repair inside the machine, which is used to sterilize cans of tuna.
Other plant workers loaded carts filled with more than six tons of tuna into the machine and – unaware that Melena was still inside – shut the door and turned on the oven.
Melena was cooked to death at temperatures that peaked around 270 degrees, and a co-worker found his charred remains afterward, prosecutors said.
The Los Angeles County district attorney filed three felony counts of committing an occupational safety and health violation that caused a death against the San Diego-based food manufacturer and two employees — former safety manager Saul Florez and Angel Rodriguez, director of plant operations.
Rodriguez, 63, remains employed by Bumble Bee, but it’s not clear when Florez left the company.
Corporate officials said they were disappointed with the charges, saying Melena’s death was a “tragic accident” but added that a California Division of Occupational Safety & Health investigation found no willful violations.
If convicted, Rodriguez and Florez each face up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and the company faces a possible $1.5 million fine.