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Bumble Bee Foods Will Pay $6M After Worker Was Cooked to Death

The grisly incident occurred in 2012.

Flickr/Rusty Clark

Bumble Bee Foods, which is best known for its eponymous canned tuna line, has agreed to pay $6 million to settle criminal charges after an employee was killed in an industrial oven. It's the largest-ever payout in a California workplace-violation death, reports the Associated Press.

Jose Melena was performing maintenance in a 35-foot-long oven at Bumble Bee's Santa Fe Springs, Calif., plant in 2012. While he was working, two co-workers loaded the oven up with 12,000 pounds of canned tuna and turned it on. During the two-hour process to cook and sterilize the cans, temperatures inside the oven reached 270 degrees fahrenheit, essentially baking Melena to death. When the oven was opened, Melena's body was found.

Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Hoon Chun, a veteran of more than 40 murder cases in two decades, told the AP he's seen a new low: "This is the worst circumstances of death I have ever, ever witnessed. I think any person would prefer to be — if they had to die some way — would prefer to be shot or stabbed than to be slowly cooked in an oven. "

The Bumble Bee employees who turned the oven on were sentenced to fines, community service, probation, and worker safety classes. Melena's family will reportedly receive $1.5 million under the settlement, but can still sue the company in civil court and receive workers' compensation funds.

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