UPDATE: Employee Dies in Tuna Plant Oven

Cal-OSHA continues its investigation on how a 62-year-old worker was cooked to death at a Bumble Bee Foods' plant.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA --The seafood plant in Santa Fe Springs resumed operations Monday amid a continuing Cal-OSHA investigation into the death of an employee who ended up in an oven, according to company officials who closed the plant on Saturday.

About 7 a.m. Thursday, Whittier police received a 911 call from Bumble Bee Foods about an industrial accident involving an employee, according to police reports.

Bumble Bee Foods' products are sold throughout Orange County in supermarkets such as Ralphs, Vons, Albertsons, and Stater Bros.

Officers pronounced Jose Melena, 62, dead at the scene. He had worked there six years, police said.

Erika Monterroza of California Division of Occupational Safety and Health said the initial investigation indicated that Melena was cooked to death in an oven.

The cooking device was described as "steamer machine.''  It was unclear how Melena ended up inside the industrial cooker.

By Cal-OSHA policy, an investigation is to be completed within six months, which will include visits to the plant, extensive interviews and a review of company safety documentation. A violation would result in civil penalties and possible criminal charges.

"The entire Bumble Bee Foods family is saddened by the tragic loss of our colleague, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Melena family,'' said Pat Menke, Bumble Bee Foods vice president of human resources, in a statement.

"Operations at Bumble Bee Foods' Santa Fe Springs processing plant have been suspended since (Thursday) morning to allow for a thorough investigation,'' Menke said. "We expect to be able to resume operations on Monday.''


--City News Service

Brenda Watts October 14, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Anyone would die if they were cooked in an oven...Gees!!!
Charlie T. October 14, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Thank God there wasn't any tuna in there.
Carol Bair October 14, 2012 at 04:41 PM
And how does one become "accidentally" cooked in an oven?
Robert D. Hansen October 14, 2012 at 05:06 PM
It'll be interesting to see how this unfolds. The Employee was probably inside cleaning the oven and no one thought to check first. If this holds true - then why was there not some safety procedures in place to prevent such a thing from happening? The main control panel should have been "Tagged Out"!
ED October 14, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Maybe Jose just decided to take his siesta in the oven?
Rose Young-Stewart October 14, 2012 at 06:06 PM
We all hope other people and ourselves never have to suffer in order to die. I am sure this man suffered terribly. this oven is massive. Just like your home double boiler ....the water on the bottom gets hot, and hot steam cooks the food.
Gloria Benson October 14, 2012 at 07:26 PM
I worked in a food plant in the mid 70's and it was very clean and safety focused. This is a terrible accident and my thoughts and prayers go out to the victim and his family. I've read many of the circumstances listed above that could have caused this and I wonder what did happen to cause this man to be cooked alive. My condolences to his family.
Bob H October 14, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Salt or pepper anyone?
Jackie Houchin October 14, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Read Robin Cook's novel TOXIC and you will REALLY be scared about safety in the meat processing industry. I couldn't eat ground beef for a year after reading it. It also includes the death of a man (in this case, murder) in a food processing company. Eeeek!
gilbert October 14, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Charlee tuna has competition. Jose Tuna!?
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) October 14, 2012 at 11:17 PM
@Rob: Agree.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) October 14, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Brenda: Probably.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) October 14, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Rose: Terrible tragedy.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) October 14, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Gloria: yes, terrible.
Vince October 15, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Debbie darlin', perhaps you have forgotten, but...NOBODY gets outta here alive, 'cause one way, shape or form, they's ta gonna make an exit---and it simply comes down to some bein' a tad easier'n others is all---so what the heck, this guy gets his 15 minutes of fame, and also to be lavished with lots of compassion, AFTER THE FACT---and I betcha he won't be forgotten any too soon, even if it is for getting "steamed" on his way to a rather early, and unimaginable Dirt Nap...Leastways he now will be indelibly etched into the macabre memory bank(s) of some folks (those who revel in such happenings), and what the heck, maybe he'll rise to the postition of being a Trivia Answer at some point in the future...So c'mon kids, let's put a "happy spin" on this deal, and forget about the horror of it all---and just sit back and watch a Benghazi Two Step by the Bumble Bee Top Cats that maybe might could prolly even do Obama proud...huh?
John Casy October 15, 2012 at 12:22 AM
I wonder if he was well done or midium ware. How long was the cooking cycle.
linda October 15, 2012 at 04:49 AM
may banble bee is short of tuna or cost to much to by so jose was the tuna i will not by no more tuna sp banble bee i bet thats what there are doing any cats missing on ur naborhood china?
Karen Devine October 15, 2012 at 04:55 AM
My feeling is this was murder. I can't imagine how this could be an accident.
Betsy October 15, 2012 at 07:00 AM
Trust me. The owners/operators are forced to think about safety-- all the time. The financial backers look at safety, the insurers look at safety, and the company looks at safety. Whether that look at safety was sufficient and appropriate will take an investigation. Just please do not jump to simple conclusions. I earn my income from safety evaluations-- just trust me, there are many layers to peel off and assess.
Anon October 15, 2012 at 08:46 AM
My mom was good friends with the guy, I hate that she has to go back to work so soon. The whole company is traumatized, and the employees are going to all get yelled at. Not going to say more but the poor man was loved by many. His own son saw his own dad get out of the oven, his arms were off due to him trying to get out. This situation has been giving me nightmares. Also, Jose’s partner is at fault I think, I know I said I wouldn’t say more, but from what I hear, his partner always made mistakes, and would come intoxicated to work at times. Why wasn’t this guy fired? Maybe it could have saved poor Jose’s life.
Lso October 15, 2012 at 03:39 PM
How cruel some people can be. Would you make such cruel and thoughtless comments if this happened your loved one? I am saddened not only by this mans death but on the way "people" ( using that term LOOSELY) are so callous. How did your patents not raise you to have compassion? Shame on you.
RAJ (Bo) McMerritt October 15, 2012 at 04:26 PM
something is making this bell ring off tune...
Happy Camper October 15, 2012 at 11:40 PM
To those of you posting sick jokes about this poor man's suffering is in such poor taste. Take your insensitive, ignorant comments elsewhere. Maybe spend more time honing in on your poor grammer skills instead. Go away.
Happy Camper October 15, 2012 at 11:42 PM
...grammar skills -- that is!
Momma Bear October 16, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Thank you so much for posting your explanation of the cannery process. I can understand how this terrible accident happened. My heart goes out to this poor man's family.
Yon Spivey October 16, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Someone said that this was an opening joke on one of the late night talk shows last night. Is this true?
whalepoop October 20, 2012 at 07:53 PM
or maybe the poor soul was cleaning it and lock out/tag out procedures were not followed.
Lil-Marty December 21, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Can I have a Jose Sandwich (no mayo), and an order of french fries! Lil Marty Leisure World
artie short December 21, 2012 at 08:56 PM
marty this is no time for your nonsense!!! u have chips w-your jose sandwich...not SMALL FRIES!!! didnt our lil mother teach u anythn????
Marque2 April 09, 2013 at 04:35 PM
It is interesting after 5 months that we haven't heard an update about what happened and what actions are being taken to prevent this from happening again. Hopefully, if someone was not following rules (because they were inebriated or otherwise) and caused this death, that person is now fired, or at least moved to a non-hazardous position.


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