San Diego has fired a senior city official and instituted stringent new rules on trash cleanups after a homeless person was thrown into a garbage truck and almost killed. In what the San Diego Union-Tribune calls "a jaw-dropping blunder," city work crews were clearing a homeless encampment with police approval on Dec. 22 when a tent with a person inside was hurled into a garbage truck. The individual "avoided being crushed to death by mere seconds" as crews took notice of flailing arms and screams, per the Union-Tribune. The person then got out of the truck and walked away before crews could offer help or learn the person's identity. Following an investigation, Environmental Services deputy director Angela Colton, a 17-year city employee, was terminated Friday, per the Union-Tribune, which notes the city only acknowledged the incident a month later.
Director Mario Sierra says new rules will also require a supervisor be present for clearings, police activation of body cameras on the scene, and photographs of waste, including emptied tents, to "ensure no individuals are present," per the Guardian. Crews will also be given quarterly training and "appropriate tools" to sort through bulky items, Sierra says. While San Diego is in the midst of a housing crisis, the Guardian reports it "found numerous examples of homeless people being compacted inside trash-collection trucks" during a US investigation in December. Just this week, a homeless man sleeping in a dumpster in Brockton, Mass., was thrown into a garbage truck when it lifted the container, reports Enterprise News. The operator heard rustling and did not activate the compactor. A fire official said the man, who suffered minor injuries, was "lucky." (Read more San Diego stories.)