Local News

Saturday, Oct 15 2011 05:55 PM

Second worker in industrial accident dies

By The Bakersfield Californian

The 22-year-old composting worker left brain dead after an industrial accident Wednesday in Lamont was taken off life support and died, according to the Kern County coroner's office.

Heladio Ramirez, of Arvin, died at 11:04 a.m. Friday in Kern Medical Center's intensive care unit. His family in the days prior had been agonizing over whether to end life support.

Days earlier, Ramirez' 16-year-old brother, Armando Ramirez, died inside an 8-foot-deep drainage tunnel at Community Recycling and Resource Co. when he was overcome by hydrogen sulfide, a deadly byproduct of the composting process that attacks the central nervous system.

The brothers were cleaning out the tunnel. Heladio Ramirez saw his brother unconscious and went down to rescue him, and was also overcome by fumes. A third worker who did not enter the tunnel was also overcome, but was treated and released.

The coroner's office has not yet released causes of death.

Meanwhile, the state Labor Commissioner and U.S. Department of Labor have opened investigations into the accident. Armando Ramirez was working under false papers that identified him as being 30 years old. Falsified identification, however, does not absolve a company of its responsibility to extend special protections to working minors.

Community Recycling officials have not responded to requests for comment, nor have officials at A & B Harvesting Inc., which employed Heladio Ramirez.

-- Californian staff

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