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Tuna Plant Charged After Worker Cooked to Death

Colleagues at Calif. plant turned on oven while Jose Melena was inside
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 28, 2015 12:18 AM CDT
Tuna Plant Charged After Worker Cooked to Death
The Bumble Bee tuna processing plant in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., is shown Oct. 15, 2012.   (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Felony charges have been filed more than two years after the horrific death of a worker at a California tuna plant. Bumble Bee Foods and two of its employees have been charged with willfully violating safety rules in the death of 62-year-old Jose Melena, who was cooked to death inside an industrial oven at the company's Santa Fe Springs plant, the Los Angeles Times reports. Prosecutors say that workers unaware Melena was making repairs inside the pressurized steam cooker loaded 12,000 pounds of tuna into it and turned it on, CBS Los Angeles reports. Melena cooked to death and a colleague discovered his charred remains.

The company—which describes the October 2012 death as a "tragic accident"—could be fined up to $1.5 million, and the plant's director of operations and former safety manager could get three years in prison each, CBS reports. "Prosecutors and investigators from my office have begun rolling out to major industrial incidents involving serious worker injuries and death," the district attorney says in a statement. "Our goal is to enhance the criminal prosecution of workplace safety violations." Bumble Bee says it is "disappointed by the charges." (According to the AFL-CIO, America's happiest state is also the deadliest for workers.)

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