Thursday, March 23, 2006

More On The Death Of Francisco Alejandro Garcia

We have a little more about the poorly-reported death of Francisco Alejandro Garcia. You may recall that I was rather upset at the lack of information in the article about his death.

First, Mary Vivenzi whose boyfriend Kevin Noah was killed, falling from Golden Gate Bridge in 2002 while working on an earthquake retrofit project, sent a letter to the WBDJ who ran the original story.
I would like to inquire on what do you base the importance of your journalistic efforts when deciding what or what not to give a story.

Because it is personally offensive that when reporting such a tragic event as a workers death you would not allow your journalism to extend itself further than a whole paragraph I fail to understand why this article seemingly failed in comparison next to that of your article Radford student gets big chance on Price Is Right which somehow managed to merit the importance of a full page story. It makes me angry and it makes me sick and once again gives merit to my belief that there are those who come to work for the love of what they do and others who only show up for the check.

Its a sad thing when the public is forced to rely on passionless journalism as a source of information. And sadder still to imagine how hard your lack of compassion affects those who need you most.
And the station's response?
Our information was based on a brief news release from the Henry County Sheriff's Department sent to us Saturday evening. That was all the information available to us all weekend. We passed along all we had regarding the circumstances both on the air and on the Internet.

Perhaps you are upset we did do more on this story Monday, although by then, the events were three days old. And we have learned over and over that grieving family members resent media inquiries as they prepare to bury a loved one.

But that does not mean we are done with the story.... we will request a copy of the state or federal safety inspection report.

Nonetheless, we regret that you find our response to be inadequate, and we do not pretend to be perfect in our decision-making process. Please let us know what elements to this story we failed to present that you believe are important and deserve our further attention.
What elements you failed to present? How about what happened? What safety standards might have been violated? What other workers had to say about working at the plant? The company's safety record? You know, "journalism." And it's not always necessary to invade the privacy of grieving families to get some useful information -- especially, as we shall see, there most of the grieving family wasn't even there.

And speaking of journalism, Cathleen in the comments brought our attention to the local newspaper, the Martinsville Bulletin, which has done some decent coverage of the story (but is apparently too small to show up in Google.)

It seems that Garcia was working for a contract company, National Service Co. of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, that cleans industrial equipment. Garcia was on a platform above a processing machine, hosing off the moving blades with a water hose when he fell in. No one observed him fall, but he apparently either slipped or the hose got tangled in the blades. (Guardrails? Lockout?)

The result was not pretty:
The State Medical Examiner's Office in Roanoke completed an autopsy of Garcia on Monday. Dr. William Massello, assistant state medical examiner, said Garcia's cause of death will be listed as multiple injuries from body fragmentation. He said it would be accurate to say Garcia's body was pulled into pieces when he was caught in the machine.
Sadly, Garcia's wife and child were on their way from Mexico to visit him when he was killed:
A week and a half ago, Alejandra Jimenez Arias was a happy young wife and mother with a promising life ahead of her. She had left Mexico with her 2-year-old daughter, Zuemy, on a week-long, 3,000-mile journey, expecting a joyous reunion with the husband and father they had not seen for 10 months.

She arrived in Martinsville on Monday as a widow.

When Arias reached the Mexican/American border late Friday night and called her husband to tell him that they were nearly here, her brother-in-law answered. Julio Cesar Alejandro Garcia broke the news to her that 19-year-old Francisco Alejandro Garcia had died that evening when he fell into a processing machine at the Knauss Snack Food plant.
The community is taking up a collection from Hispanic stores and Mexican restaurants throughout Virginia and South Carolina where many of their townspeople and distant relatives live. They're trying to raise the $6,800 it will take to send his body back to Mexico for burial.

Garcia's brother-in-law said that "neither he nor anyone in the household has been contacted by Knauss or National Service since the accident, and he has not known how to reach appropriate authorities to make inquiries."