Bumble Bee Forced to Pay $6M for Worker Cooked Alive

Worker Jose Melena died a horrific death
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2015 8:30 PM CDT
Updated Aug 13, 2015 12:19 AM CDT
Bumble Bee Forced to Pay $6M for 'Horrific' Death
The Bumble Bee tuna processing plant in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., is shown Monday, Oct. 15, 2012.    (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Bumble Bee Foods will fork out $6 million for the horrific death of an employee cooked alive in 12,000 pounds of tuna fish, NBC News reports. Announced Wednesday by prosecutors, the plea agreement is California's biggest ever for a workplace safety violation. It consists of $3 million to buy new automated ovens, $1.5 million to the state government and courts, and $1.5 million to the family of Jose Melena, 62, who died at Bumble Bee's Santa Fe Springs plant in 2012. He was working in a 36-foot-by-54-inch oven—likely fixing or altering a chain inside, the Whittier Daily News reports—when a co-worker assumed Melena was in the bathroom, dumped in tuna, and turned on the oven. An autopsy concluded Melena died from burns in the 270-degree pressure cooker.

"This is the worst circumstances of death I have ever, ever witnessed," Deputy District Attorney Hoon Chun tells the AP. "I think any person would prefer to be—if they had to die some way—would prefer to be shot or stabbed than to be slowly cooked in an oven." Former Bumble Bee safety manager Saul Florez pleaded guilty to breaking lockout rules and was hit with three years' probation and $19,000 in penalties and fines. The sentence for Bumble Bee's director of plant operations, Angel Rodriguez, includes fines and community service. Meanwhile, Chun says Melena's family has a civil attorney and could still sue Bumble Bee, CBS Los Angeles reports. "Certainly, nothing will bring back our dad, and our mom will not have her husband back, but much can be done to ensure this terrible accident does not happen again," says the family in a statement. Read more on the accident here. (More workplace safety stories.)

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