Two employees of Bumble Bee Foods were each charged with three felony counts of violating Occupational Safety & Health Administration rules when they inadvertently cooked a maintenance worker in a 35-foot-long industrial pressure cooker oven along with tons of tuna.
In the early morning hours of Oct. 11, 2012, Jose Melena was working on a routine maintenance issue in the oven at the Santa Fe Springs plant. Mistakenly thinking that Melena was in the washroom, a co-worker stuffed the oven with 12,000 pounds of canned tuna and turned on the switch.
When Melina went missing, a two hour search by company employees ensued. Ultimatelly, they discovered his badly burned body in the oven, which cooks at a temperature of 270 degrees.
According to NBC News, Bumble Bee Foods, Plant Operations Director Angel Rodriguez and former Safety Manager Saul Florez, “willfully violated rules that require implementing a safety plan, rules for workers entering confined spaces, and a procedure to keep machinery or equipment turned off if someone’s working on it.”
Prosecutors said that Rodriguez, 63, of Riverside, and Florez, 42, of Whittier could face three years in prison and fines up to $250,000 if convicted on all charges. Bumble Bee could be fined up to $1.5 million.
CNN spoke with Melina’s daughter, who said that the charges are a relief: “Hopefully they do fix all these things and not make another family go through something so horrible… when that door was shut, and he saw that, all the thoughts that went through his head… it just upsetting.”
Bumble Bee Food said in a statement that they disagree with the charges, but admit to having made “robust changes” in safety since the 2012 accident.