In what plant officials are calling an accident, a six-year veteran of a tuna processing plant was cooked to death by an industrial steam oven on Thursday.
Jose Melena, 62, was said to have been a skilled and knowledgeable employee of the Bumble Bee tuna plant, and it remains unclear how he could have become trapped in the oven.
Melena’s work duties included putting baskets of sealed cans of tuna into a pressure cooker to sterilize the tuna, before it is cooled, dried, and inspected before being shipped out to stores.
When police and the fire department arrived at the plant, which is about 18 miles outside of downtown Los Angeles, Melena was pronounced dead at the scene. Not many details have been made available at this time, but Erika Monterroza, a spokeswoman for the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health stated it usually takes about three to four months to complete worker fatality investigations.
In a statement to KTLA News, a spokesperson for the Bumble Bee Foods plant said, “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.”
Melena was a married father of six, and grandfather to eight. He and his wife Sara came to the U.S. in 1971 from Urequio, Michoacan, Mexico with their then 1-year-old daughter Emma.
“I believe he is with God,” his daughter Sara said. “I can’t say, `God, why us?’ I just think everything has a purpose. God is not going to leave us alone.”