Bumble Bee Faces Felony Charges in Horrific Death Due to Lockout Failure

Santa Fe Springs, CA – In October 2012, 62-year-old Jose Melena was cooked to death inside an industrial oven at Bumble Bee Foods’ Santa Fe Springs (CA) plant. Felony charges have now been filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney – Bumble Bee Foods and two of its employees have been charged with willfully violating safety rules.

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. This failure in employee safety training and lockout/tagout procedures resulted in Melena being tragically and avoidably cooked to death. During the two-hour heat sterilization process, the oven’s internal temperature rose to about 270 degrees. Melena’s severely burned remains were discovered by a coworker.

Bumble Bee Foods 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. The two Bumble Bee employees involved face a maximum sentence of three years in state prison and/or a $250,000 fine if convicted. “Prosecutors and investigators from [the LA County DA’s] office have begun rolling out to major industrial incidents involving serious worker injuries and death,” DA Jackie Lacey 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.”

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