Bumble Bee Foods has been forced to pay out millions after two of its employees killed one of their co-workers in a freak accident. No one should ever have to suffer the way this man did.
Back in August of 2015, 62-year-old Jose Melena arrived at the Bumble Bee Foods plant in Sante Fe Springs, California for his early morning shift.
Things were quiet in the factory, so he didn't communicate to his co-workers that he'd be changing his routine that morning.
When hours passed, Jose's co-workers started to wonder where he was. It wasn't like him to miss a shift.
Jose had worked for the company for six years before his tragic death. He had six children that he supported on his salary.
The details of their father's death still haunt them today.
After searching everywhere, One of Jose's co-workers opened up one of the factory's 35-foot-long industrial pressure cookers to remove 12,000 pounds of tuna for packaging and was horrified by what he saw.
There was Jose's body behind the crates. The only question that mattered at that moment was, "Is Jose alive?"
Jose's body had been so badly burned in the pressure cooker, he was barely recognizable.
It only took a few seconds for the medical examiner to pronounce him dead, and the company was about to be in a whole lot of trouble. The next questions were difficult to pose. What protocol was ignored? And who should be held responsible?
The morning of his death, Jose stepped into the industrial oven to make a quick repair before the tuna was placed inside of it for sterilization.
He failed to mention what he was going to do to the other employees on shift with him, so when one of his co-workers noticed the door ajar, he shut Jose inside.
What happened next was unimaginable.
Workers are required to check the pressure cookers before loading the tuna and turning up the heat, but that protocol was ignored the day that Jose was killed.
After Jose was trapped inside, an employee set the timer for two hours and upped the temperature to 270-degrees Fahrenheit. Jose had no way of escape.
Details emerged later that Jose had left the pallet jacket out while making his repair.
A second employee noticed it and assumed Jose was in the bathroom, so he loaded the tuna into the cooker himself, shutting Jose inside.
When the crew found Jose, he was curled up by the exit in the cooker. He had been trying to escape.
The company's safety manager, Saul Florez, and the director of operations, Angel Rodriguez, were the only two men held responsible. They were asked to serve community service and had to pay fines up to $19,000.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney ruled that Bumble Bee Foods would have to pay $6 million for "willfully violating worker safety rules," which is not much for a multi-million dollar company.
But what happened to Jose's family?
Bumble Bee Foods paid Jose's family of seven $1.5 million and was forced to invest $3 million into getting new ovens. Thanks to the pressure applied by the Melena family, workers will no longer be required to step foot inside the pressure cookers, ensuring that this horrible circumstance doesn't repeat itself.
But the frenzy was hardly over, another story surfaced attached to Jose's death that gave the public quite a stir.
Three years after Jose lost his life, news started to circulate that human remains had been found in nearly 34,000 cans of Bumble Bee tuna.
It's true, Bumble Bee did recall that much tuna, but not because human remains were found in them. The tuna was packed in a facility not owned and operated by Bumble Bee Foods whose sterilization process was thought to have lead to the contamination of the tuna.
Jose's remains were properly handled and his memory honored.