California DA decides not to prosecute dairy death

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Saying that the case doesn’t meet the test for a “reasonable likelihood of conviction,” Merced County District Attorney Gordon Spencer announced Friday that criminal charges would not be filed in the death of a man working in a manure pit on a dairy.

An employee of Turlock Irrigation Construction was working to install a gate inside a standpipe that transports manure from the dairy barns to a holding area when he was overcome by fumes and died. The accident occurred at a Gustine, Calif. dairy in August 2002.

Earlier this year California dairy producer Patrick J. Faria was acquitted of any wrongdoing in a similar case involving the death of an employee of the dairy on his farm.

Prosecutors had felt the case against Faria was the stronger of the two cases as Faria was a volunteer firefighter who had taken a class on the dangers of working in confined spaces. However, since the jury found Faria not guilty of involuntary manslaughter, and the case against Turlock Irrigation Construction was not as strong, the prosecutor opted to not file criminal charges.

However, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health issued nine citations against Turlock Irrigation Construction and levied a fine of $116,500.  Cal-OSHA also fined the Aguilar-Faria Dairy $125,650. The dairy is currently appealing the fine.

Modesto Bee



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