Whittier, Calif., fire fighters and police, responding to an early-morning call about an industrial accident, rushed to the aid of a worker at a Bumble Bee Foods tuna processing plant in Santa Fe Springs, Calif. When they arrived, they found Jose Melena dead at the scene. He had become trapped in a pressure cooker used to sterilize canned tuna.
Investigators from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA) are trying to determine how Melena, who had worked at the facility for 6 years, became trapped and cooked to death in the steam oven. Melena’s job was to push baskets of sealed cans of tuna into the pressure cooker. He worked the overnight shift and was discovered in the steam oven by his coworkers at approximately 7 a.m.
"This is a horrendous tragedy," Cal-OSHA spokeswoman Erika Monterroza told the Whittier Daily News. "Once all the facts are gathered, at that point a determination will be made if California health and safety regulations were violated."
Melena’s family is in shock over his death. His son, Antonia Melena, said his father, who was 62 when he died, “was just grateful” that he had a job and could provide for his family. Melena’s daughter, Sara Melena, called her father “a hard worker.”
"The entire Bumble Bee Foods family is saddened by the tragic loss of our colleague, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Melena family," said Pat Menke, vice president of human resources for Bumble Bee Foods. The facility was shut down over the weekend to allow for investigators to process the scene but was expected to reopen yesterday.
The fatality investigation is expected to take 3-6 months.