Victor Vellez celebrated his 15th wedding anniversary with his wife Verónica in mid-January. According to her niece Marisol Raygoza, they always looked like they were still in love.
On January 28, Vellez, 39, said goodbye to his wife and two children and worked at the Foundation Food Group’s chicken processing facility in Gainesville, Georgia.
Later that day, Vellez was one of six workers killed after liquid nitrogen leaked from the facility’s cooling system. 11 other people were hospitalized.
“He was a good worker. He was always there for his children and his wife and never refused favors, “said Raygoza. Vellez, who is from Mexico, was a senior mechanic at the plant and had worked there for nine years.
The Vellez family and the families of the other five victims have filed an unlawful death lawsuit against Messer Group, the chemical company that installed the processing plant’s cooling system. The company, with more than 10,000 employees, specializes in the installation and maintenance of nitrogen and other volatile gas systems.
They are also suing the employee who installed the system for negligence for “failing to properly repair or shut down the system and keep operating it, putting vulnerable FFG employees, including Victor Vellez, at risk of injury and death a volatile, odorless and colorless gas, “according to the lawsuit.
“Veronica is just so devastated. It’s difficult for her to hold her own in public, “said Jeff Talley, one of the family’s lawyers.” He did everything for her, she adored him – it really challenges her spiritually and emotionally. “
Matt Cook, an attorney for another family suing Messer, that of Corey Murphy, 35, said their investigation found there were complaints about the operation of the system just two days before the nitrogen leak, “and apparently they do did not get problems fixed or the system shut down. “
According to lawyers, Messer is responsible for the fact that “the system was not properly inspected, tested, repaired and / or shut down until it could be properly repaired”, which could have led to the death of the workers.
All evidence, Cook said, points to the installer, not the chicken factory owner, but “that could change later.” Cook said plaintiffs’ attorneys had not been given access to the work.
A spokeswoman for Messer, Amy Ficon, told Noticias Telemundo Investiga that the company regretted the loss of life and was “fully cooperating with the Ministry of Safety and Health at Work (OSHA) and the National Chemical Safety Board (CSB) in the investigation “. .
Both Talley and Cook said they also sought compensation from the Foundation Food Group, which is separate from the Messer Group litigation.
According to Vellez’s lawyers, the Foundation Food Group never contacted Verónica Vellez to tell her what happened to her husband. The only communication they had with the company was through the human resources office to give Vellez’s widow the salary owed her husband, as well as his vacation pay.
In a statement to Noticias Telemundo Investiga, the Foundation Food Group said they would resume operations on Wednesday, but not in the area of the accident. “The production line in which the incident on January 28th occurred will be shut down and locked for the foreseeable future.”
The company’s statement also said: “We continue to provide all resources to regulators related to the ongoing investigation and continue to work to ensure a safe workplace for all employees. As the community continues to heal, Foundation Food speaks.” Group continues to extend sympathies and prayers to families and friends of the lost. “
The others who died in the accident are José DeJesus Elias-Cabrera, 45; Nelly Perez-Rafael, 28; Saulo Suarez-Bernal, 41; and Edgar Vera-Garcia, 28.
Vellez was the main breadwinner for the family, said the family lawyer. But more importantly, he was a very dedicated father.
“We just want to know what happened,” said Raygoza, his niece.
An earlier version of this story was originally published by Noticias Telemundo Investiga.
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