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State Senator Calls for Investigation into LAX Luggage Handler's Death

Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, said Valenzuela's death is "a horrible tragedy and we must find out if this could have been prevented."

Sen. Ted Lieu wants an investigation into the death of an LAX baggage handler. Patch file photo.
Sen. Ted Lieu wants an investigation into the death of an LAX baggage handler. Patch file photo.

A state senator called on his colleagues today to conduct an investigation into working conditions at Los Angeles International Airport in response to the death of a 51-year-old baggage handler last month.

Carlos Augusto Valenzuela, an employee of Menzies Aviation, was struck by a luggage-moving cart after falling from the vehicle on Feb. 21. Despite some initial reports that Valenzuela may have suffered a heart attack, but the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has opened an investigation into the man's death.

Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, said Valenzuela's death is "a horrible tragedy and we must find out if this could have been prevented."

The state senator will meet with legislative leaders to schedule a hearing, Lieu spokesman Ray Sotero said.

Lieu's statements came as community and labor groups, including the Service Employees International Union, gathered at the UCLA Labor Center to call for state legislative hearings on working conditions at LAX and other local airports.

Lieu said there have been reports of other Menzies Aviation workers being injured in recent years. Menzies was fined almost $95,000 last year by Cal/OSHA, the state agency that regulates workplace conditions, for practices that led to unsafe working conditions, Lieu said.

"The fact that this isn't the first safety incident involving Menzies Aviation shows that there may be a dangerous pattern developing," Lieu said. "No one should have to worry that their spouse won't come home from work because they were hurt or killed on the job."

Maya Pagoda, spokeswoman for Menzies, said the company "corrected every single issue that was cited by Cal/OSHA last year."

The company issued a statement today saying it is "deeply saddened by the loss of our valued and respected 15-year colleague."

"Our collective thoughts, prayers, and condolences are with his family during this very difficult time," according to the company.

The company is "cooperating fully" with Cal/OSHA and conducting its own investigation into the cause of the "tragic incident since ensuring the safety of our employees, our airline partners, and their passengers is at center of everything we do. Until these investigations are concluded, it would be entirely inappropriate to speculate about their results," the statement said.

--City News Service


Don Balzano March 15, 2014 at 10:09 AM
Isn't that Cal-OSHA's responsibility?
John Starks March 17, 2014 at 11:10 AM
Ted Lieu is an idiot.

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