Sanitation worker crushed to death had complained about equipment for months, wife says

Posted at 7:58 AM, Aug 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-28 07:58:02-04

RIVERBANK Calif -- The family of a sanitation worker in California who was killed on the job says he voiced concerns about the safety of his equipment months before his death.

Investigators say Ismael Martinez-Huertas was crushed to death Monday when something went wrong with his truck on Homewood Way in Riverbank.

Alcira Vega, Martinez-Huertas' wife, says her husband had been working for Gilton Solid Waste Management for at least three months and had complained about his truck to managers.

She says his death was preventable.

"If they would have gone and just fixed it the first time, the second time, the third time, the fourth time that he mentioned it, none of this, none of this would happen right now. He would still be here with us," Vega told KTXL.

Neighbor Amoz Marshall's home surveillance cameras captured video of Martinez-Huertas.

"And then the second time he gets back up, climbs into the truck, and then it was at that moment that I noticed that he didn’t come back down," Marshall said.

Marshall says it took hours before anyone found Martinez-Huertas' body.

Vega says her husband would say there was something wrong with the sensors in his truck and had complained to managers for months.

"He would say the sensors were ... something was wrong with the sensors, that they were always glitching," she told KTXL.

"He says, 'The sensor on the equipment is just not catching the trash can where it should be,'" Marshall said.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health is now investigating the incident. Officials say Gilton had at least two injury accidents in the last two years.

"The same way that you want these employees to be responsible, then you should be responsible," Vega said. Vega and her two children are now left without the man they called their mentor, their protector and the love of Vega's life. She says she and Martinez-Huertas had been together since they were 15.

"Never gonna meet anyone like him or close to him," she said.

Gilton Solid Waste Management did not respond to request for comment Tuesday.