A Florida concrete products plant worker at Oldcastle Coastal in Lehigh Acres was killed when the cement mixer suddenly turned on while he was still inside, reported the News Press. At approximately 4:50 a.m. on Wednesday, April 13, it was reported that when 23-year-old Zavarius “Zee” Philius went into “the mixer to retrieve something, it somehow turned on.”
Lee county police officials arrived at the Oldcastle Coastal, “a premier manufacturer and distributor in Florida for Masonry and Hardscape products” following what police officials are calling a freak accident, and discovered Philius’ body inside the cement mixer.
Paramedics pronounced Philius, who had been working at the Oldcastle Coastal for a few months, dead at the scene.
Philius’ adoptive mother, Vickie Jones, told reporters that she first learned of her son’s tragic death through Philius’ co-worker, who called her and informed her that Philius was killed when he went inside the cement mixer and it somehow turned on.
Jones stated that it was “very hard to know that my son got crushed in a machine. That’s real hard from my understanding, which I don’t know how the blades came around and just jammed him against the wall.”
“We heard that he went in to get something, then we heard that it went on when it was supposed to be off.”
“This is a difficult situation,” she continued. “We always told him he was our son. We always did everything for him. He was always happy-go-lucky. He always gave everybody a hug.”
Family and friends were stunned after learning that Philius was killed following a workplace accident, including neighbor Amber Zimmer, who said the incident was “just absolutely horrible.”
“He was so sweet. He was kind. We would stand around and talk all the time. All of our kids played together. Yeah… it just sucks.”
After an employee was killed, inside of the cement mixer at the Oldcastle Coastal, reporters reached out to the management team, but they refused to release a statement, claiming that they were advised by the sheriff’s office not to comment, according to ABC7 News.
— The News-Press (@TheNewsPress) April 13, 2016
However, a former employee — who asked to remain anonymous because he is still in the industry — reached out to reporters, saying that while he was employed with the company, for eight months, there were issues with the cement machine.
The former employee stated that “the mixer at one plant has come on by itself, just out of the blue. It has been known to just start. It’s the same one in plant one that was coming on by itself. Plant one is known for all sorts of issues because it’s just an outdated machinery.”
“It was logged multiple times,” and other employees “kept bringing it up that it [cement machine] would come on by itself.”
He went on to say that he wasn’t sure if the company addressed the issue after his departure, but he suggested that the cement mixer’s function issue could have played a role in Philius’ death. He said, “They keep telling everyone they’re going to shut the plant down and replace all the machines, but they have yet to do it.”
However, according to Philius’ mother, the company did in fact shut down for nearly a week prior to the workplace accident that led to the Florida man’s death. Jones stated that “Zavarius told us that they were out of work from Thursday through Sunday. They shut the whole company down because there were problems with machinery.” She added that because of a machinery malfunction, her son is now dead.
Following the freak accident, the company closed their doors, but placed a sign in a window, stating that they would reopen the following day.
Lee county police officials are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the workplace accident that led to the death of Zavarius Philius.
[Image via Lee County Sheriff’s Office]