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State safety officials are investigating six possible heat-related deaths

July 22, 2011 |  7:19 pm

South pasadena California workplace-safety officials are investigating six possible heat-related deaths since April, including those of two farmworkers, a police officer and a drilling crew member.

Investigators are awaiting coroners’ cause-of-death determinations in all six cases, said Erika Monterroza, a spokeswoman for the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

The fatalities include a 47-year-old tractor driver who died July 7 after falling ill while harvesting cantaloupes in 102-degree heat in Blythe, in Riverside County. A 56-year-old farmworker died April 26 after collapsing while picking corn in Imperial County, when the temperature was 84.

Other deaths under review include a 38-year-old grading foreman and a 53-year-old laborer who died after cleaning out waste bins. Both deaths occurred in June in Imperial County, in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees.

Cal/OSHA also is investigating the June death of a 48-year-old member of a drilling crew in Niland, in Imperial County, and that of South Pasadena Police Officer Kevin Sandoval, 23, who fell and struck his head June 14 at a firing range in Azusa.

State officials did not release victims’ names; Sandoval was previously identified by law enforcement authorities.

Last year, Cal/OSHA investigated 11 deaths as potentially heat-related, but medical examiners eventually ruled that nine were from other causes, Monterroza said. In 2009, California had one confirmed heat-related death, she said.    


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Photo: South Pasadena Police Officer Kevin Sandoval

Credit: South Pasadena Police Department