One October morning at a Santa Fe Springs Bumble Bee Foods plant, staff noticed one of their co-workers was missing.
They looked for him in the facility and parking lot, and made an announcement over the intercom, CBS LA added. But they didn’t find Jose Melena, 62, until the pressure cooker was opened. There, they found his body, where he’d cooked with 12,000 pounds of canned tuna.
Now, Bumble Bee will pay a huge settlement in Melena’s death, with two employees held accountable and ordered to probation and community service for their role as well, The Los Angeles Times added.
What happened that morning is unimaginably gruesome. Jose stepped into the oven to make a quick repair inside the pressure cooker. A co-worker believed he was in the bathroom, and so didn’t check inside the oven before filling it with tuna, shutting the door, and turning the oven on.
For Hoon Chun, the assistant head deputy district attorney for the Consumer Protection Division, which achieved the historic settlement, Melena’s death was shocking.
“You don’t have warm blood running in your veins if you’re not affected by the way this guy died. It’s horrific. I think any person would prefer to be — if they had to die some way — would prefer to be shot or stabbed than to be slowly cooked in an oven. “
The settlement requires not just a record $6 million from Bumble Bee, but a host of facility improvements to make the plant safer. Most importantly, the ovens will be updated. According to NBC News, a state report ruled that the old ovens were inherently dangerous because a defect required workers to crawl inside to operate them properly. The settlement requires the company to shell out $3 million for automated ovens, which workers won’t need to step inside for any reason.
As per the settlement, Bumble Bee must also install video cameras at the ovens, provide training on safety rules, and conduct audits on equipment to confirm their safety. They’re also handing out plenty of money: $1.5 million to Jose’s family — including six kids — $750,000 to a DA fund, and $750,000 in combined fees.
But Bumble Bee isn’t the only one paying. Two of Melena’s co-workers have been held accountable for his death as well — Angel Rodriguez and Saul Florez.
A report stated that Rodriguez knew staff often entered the ovens — he’ll serve community service and must take work safety classes. Florez has been deemed more responsible for the death, as he was the safety manager at the time. He’s accused of failing to conduct a safety audit on equipment and was sentenced to three years probation and fines.
But the settlement against both Bumble Bee and Jose’s co-workers won’t prohibit his family from filing their own lawsuit. They released a statement in response to the ruling.
“Certainly, nothing will bring back our dad, and our mom will not have her husband back, but much can be done to ensure this terrible accident does not happen again.”
[Photo Courtesy Tim Boyle / Getty Images]