Bumble Bee Foods and two managers were charged by Los Angeles prosecutors yesterday with violating safety regulations in the death of a worker who was cooked in an industrial oven with tons of tuna.
Jose Melena was performing maintenance in a 35-foot-long oven at the company’s Santa Fe Springs plant before dawn Oct. 11, 2012, when a co-worker, who mistakenly believed Melena was in the bathroom, filled the pressure cooker with 12,000 pounds of canned tuna and it was turned on.
When a supervisor noticed Melena, 62, was missing, an announcement was made on the intercom and employees searched for him in the facility and parking lot, according to a report by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
After a 2 hour search, the pressure cooker, which had reached a temperature of 270 degrees, was turned off and opened and that’s where is body was found. The 2 coworkers, Rodriguez, 63 and Florez, 42,who turned the cooker on, could face up to three years in prison and fines up to $250,000 if convicted of all charges, prosecutors said.
The state’s occupational safety agency previously cited the San Diego-based company for failing to properly assess the danger to employees working in large ovens and fined it $74,000.
Bumble Bee Foods faces a maximum fine of $1.5 million but the company has appealed the penalties, stating that it has improved its safety program after the tragedy.
“We remain devastated by the loss of our colleague Jose Melena in the tragic accident,” the company said in a statement. “We disagree with and are disappointed by the charges filed by the Los Angeles district attorney’s office.”