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Family seeks answers after death at seafood plant

SANTA FE SPRINGS, Calif. -- Workplace safety investigators and a grieving family on Monday searched for an explanation of how a pallet jack operator was cooked to death at a Bumble Bee Foods seafood processing plant.

Tony Melena said his 62-year-old father, Jose Melena, was killed in an accident last week at the Santa Fe Springs plant but the company has given the family no information about how he died.

"All they came and did was notify my mother that he had lost his life in an accident, and that's it," said Melena, who is one of the victim's six children. "We don't have any official report."

Police received a 911 call from the Bumble Bee plant Thursday morning to report an industrial accident. When officers arrived, they found the man dead.

Bumble Bee Foods LLC, which reopened the plant Monday, expressed workers' sadness at Melena's death. The company did not immediately answer questions about how the six-year employee died.

Craig Harvey, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County coroner's office, said the man died in a device described as a pressure cooker. He said coroner's officials would investigate the death later Monday.

A message was left for the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which is also investigating.

Tony Melena said the family is looking for answers to how this could happen. He said his father was an avid gardener who didn't drink or smoke and was always trying to set an example for his now-grown children.

"He was a great, great dad," Melena said. "He was trying to set an example for everybody."

More than 300 people died in fatal occupational injuries in California in 2010, according to Cal/OSHA statistics.