Tuna Company Agrees to Pay $6M in Death of Worker Trapped in Oven


Bumble Bee Foods has agreed to pay $6 million to settle criminal charges in the death of a Los Angeles-area worker who was cooked in an oven with tons of tuna.

District Attorney Jackie Lacey said the settlement announced Wednesday is the largest payout in a California workplace violation death. The settlement includes a $1.5 million payment to the family of Jose Melena, who died three years ago in a 270-degree oven at the company’s Santa Fe Springs plant.

Melena was trapped in the oven, cooking for two hours, after a co-worker mistakenly believed he was in the bathroom and filled a pressure cooker with 12,000 pounds of canned tuna.

The San Diego-based company will also upgrade ovens, pay fines and penalties and provide $750,000 to the district attorney’s office to fund workplace safety investigations. The upgrades include videos to monitor safety around the ovens, training for managers and workers about safety rules and safety audits of plant equipment, according to the DA’s office.

A former safety manager at the Southern California seafood plant also pleaded guilty in the workplace death. Saul Florez was sentenced to probation and ordered Wednesday to pay about $19,000 in fines and penalties, according to the DA’s statement.

He pleaded guilty to a felony count of willfully violating lockout tagout rules and proximately causing the victim’s death.