Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Death At McDonalds: "Five Lousy Feet"

An 18-year old McDonalds employee and a deliver truck driver were killed at a McDonalds in Sanford, Florida last week.
Saturday afternoon, NuCO2 driver George Torres of Apopka arrived to fill the restaurant's carbon dioxide tank, according to police. He took the supply hose through an emergency door and into a children's play area but could not reach a fill valve in an adjacent storeroom because the door was locked, Sanford police Sgt. David Morganstern said.

Officials think 18-year-old McDonald's worker Christopher Edgar scaled a 10-foot wall into the storeroom, which had no ceiling, to open the door from the inside, but it had a deadbolt lock that required a key, Morganstern said. Torres apparently fed the hose over the wall to Edgar, Morganstern said. Edgar was overcome by the gas, and Torres apparently climbed over the wall and also was overcome. Another restaurant employee found them.

Torres died Saturday, and Edgar died Sunday.
As with most workplace fatalities, this one was predictable and preventable. According to Jim Lampa, who has worked for NuCO2 Inc. for about five years,
at least three drivers ... have complained about the McDonald's on U.S. Highway 17-92, north of Lake Mary Boulevard, and other restaurants where workers have to enter enclosed rooms to deliver the gas.

The accident "couldn't have happened" if the connection had been on the outside of the building, Lampa said.


It wasn't immediately clear if placement of the valve was McDonald's responsibility or the gas company's. A local representative of McDonald's said the company was working with authorities and suppliers to ensure the safe operation of the restaurant.

The tank that holds the carbon dioxide is in the restaurant's kitchen, but a line leading from it ends in the storeroom, where there is a fill valve, Lampa said. A box containing the fill valve, called a bib, could have been placed on the outside of the building if the line had been extended "5 lousy feet," Lampa said.

"We're supposed to be able to fill them without going in a room," Lampa said.