Jose Melena was found dead inside an industrial oven in October 2012

By Tara Fowler
April 28, 2015 11:15 AM

Bumble Bee Foods has been charged in the death of an employee who was accidentally cooked to death inside an industrial oven.

In October 2012, Jose Melena entered the 35-foot oven at the company’s Santa Fe Springs, California, plant to make a repair. Two of his co-workers, who have also been charged in his death, didn’t realize he was inside and began loading the oven with tuna, according to the Los Angeles Times.

They shut the door and turned the oven on. Hours later, Melena’s charred remains were found inside the appliance.

On Monday, Bumble Bee Foods, former safety manager Saul Florez, 42, and 63-year-old Angel Rodriguez, the director of plant operations, were each charged with three felony counts of committing an occupational safety and health violation that caused a death, the Times reports.

The company vehemently disputed the charge in a statement provided to LA Weekly.

“We remain devastated by the loss of our colleague Jose Melena in the tragic accident that occurred at our Santa Fe Springs plant in October 2012. Bumble Bee cooperated fully with Cal-OSHA in its post-accident investigation, which found no willful violations related to the accident,” the company said.

“We disagree with and are disappointed by the charges filed by the Los Angeles District Attorney s Office. We are currently exploring all options with respect to those charges and will proceed in the manner that best serves the needs of the Melena family, our employees and the Company.”

Meanwhile, District Attorney Jackie Lacey insisted that the D.A.’s office takes “worker safety very seriously.”

“For the past year, prosecutors and investigators from my office have begun rolling out to major industrial incidents involving serious worker injuries and death,” she said in a statement. “Our goal is to enhance the criminal prosecution of workplace safety violations.

“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.”

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