Bumble Bee Foods, Employees Charged After Worker’s Death

Los Angeles County prosecutors have charged Bumble Bee Foods and two of its employees with violating safety regulations after the horrific death of a 62-year-old worker.

Jose Melena was performing repairs inside a 35-foot oven at the tuna company’s Santa Fe Springs plant when co-workers mistakenly began loading the oven with 12,000 pounds of tuna, shut the door, and turned it up to 270 degrees. Melena was found dead inside the pressure cooker two hours later, following a search of the property.

The company, its former safety manager, and the director of plant operations have each been charged with three felony counts of occupational safety and health violations leading to the death of an employee, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

"We take worker safety very seriously," said Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey. “Although the Bumble Bee investigation began in 2012, this case represents our commitment to protecting workers from illegal -- and, potentially, deadly -- on-the-job practices."

The San Diego-based company has said it disagrees with the charges, calling the death a “tragic accident.” A previous investigation by the California Division of Occupational Safety & Health "found no willful violations related to the accident,” Bumble Bee noted in a statement.

If convicted, each employee could face up to three years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The company itself could be fined up to $1.5 million.

Read more about tragic death and subsequent charges here.