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Coroner IDs worker in Newark industrial site fatality

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NEWARK — A 25-year-old Burlingame man died after an apparent accident at an industrial site this week, authorities said.

In a statement Thursday posted to social media, Alameda County Fire Department firefighters responded to PABCO, 37851 Cherry St., for a 3:45 p.m. Tuesday report of a person trapped inside a commercial hopper at a gypsum processing plant and distribution center.

Firefighters with the department’s heavy-rescue team responded to the site with specialized equipment and arrived to learn that a worker had tried to enter the four-story-tall hopper filled with gypsum powder.

“We were told what happened was he climbed inside a man door at the lower part of this very large hopper to inspect some product that was hung up or stuck and, in the process of trying to fix it, vast amounts of this product which is a lot like quicksand fell on him,” fire department special operations division chief Paige Bowie said Thursday.

A co-worker standing nearby tried to pull him out without success, and the man had lost consciousness by the time firefighters arrived and first tried to enter the hopper from above.

“Ultimately, we ended up cutting a hole” with a liquid-fuel cutting torch next to the man door before pulling the man out and providing emergency life-saving care just under an hour after the call, Bowie said. Despite firefighters’ efforts, the man was pronounced dead at the scene. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office coroner’s bureau identified him Thursday as Rodas Jerez.

Fremont Fire Department firefighters also responded to assist with the rescue attempt, which Bowie described as “fairly uncommon. This is definitely what our rescue team trains for, but it’s not a common call when something like this happens.”

PABCO officials did not immediately respond Thursday evening to a request for comment.

Contact George Kelly at 408-859-5180.

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