Janio Salinas Valerda was buried alive Monday afternoon after several tons of processed sugar engulfed him inside a hopper at CSC Sugar on Roebling Road at the old U.S. Steel site in Falls Township, officials said.
Bucks County Coroner Dr. Joseph Campbell ruled the 50-year-old Edgewater Park, N.J. resident’s cause of death as asphyxiation after a late Tuesday evening autopsy.
Investigators said Valerda used a lift to get in the narrow bottom of the large hopper to try to clear a clog when sugar began to pour in.
Campbell said the victim tried, yet was unable to escape before being buried in a “bin as big as a room.”
Workers at the facility noticed Valerda was missing for nearly an hour and became concerned when they saw the empty lift, the coroner said.
Other employees at the facility noticed a clog persisted in the hopper and called a subcontractor who opened an access panel and saw Valerda’s jeans inside the piece of equipment at around 2:30 p.m., Campbell said. Emergency crews were immediately dispatched and workers began the 45 minute process to empty the tank, officials said.
Fire Marshal Rich Dippolito said rescue crews were forced to cut entry into the hopper to retrieve the body.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the incident.
“This appears to have been a tragic accident,” police Lt. Hank Ward said.
Worker Dead at Falls Sugar Facility