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Worker dies in tuna plant oven

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Tue October 16, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Jose Melena's job was to push baskets of canned tuna into a pressure cooker
  • Melena was a 6-year veteran of the Santa Fe Springs plant
  • California's state worker safety agency is investigating the fatality

Read a version of this story in Arabic

Los Angeles (CNN) -- California authorities are investigating the death of a worker in an oven at a Los Angeles-area tuna processing plant.

The victim, Jose Melena, was cooked to death in a steam oven at the Bumble Bee Foods plant in Santa Fe Springs on Thursday, said Erika Monterroza, a spokeswoman for the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

Melena was a six-year veteran of the plant, which was shut down until Monday, the company 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," the company said.

Monterroza said she could not disclose further details. Worker fatality investigations typically take three to four months to complete.

The plant is about 18 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. It processes and cans tuna loin.

Melena's job involved pushing baskets of sealed cans into a pressure cooker, and he was considered a skilled and knowledgeable employee, Pat Menke, the company's vice president for human resources, told CNN. The process sterilizes the canned tuna, which is then cooled, dried, labeled and inspected before being shipped to stores, Menke said.

CNN's Stella Chan and Irving Last contributed to this report.

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