Union City man crushed at North Bergen recycling facility

Horacio Diaz's death is the third at the facility since 2016

Union City man crushed at North Bergen recycling facility
A sign promoting "SAFETY FIRST" at the facility where Horacio Diaz was killed at Lincoln Recycling Services in North Bergen. Photo by Daniel Israel.

The North Bergen Police Department responded to a reported injury inside Lincoln Recycling Services LLC at approximately 3:20 p.m. on Jan. 2,  according to Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez.

Upon arrival at the facility at 4711 Dell Avenue, responding Police Officers found the apparently lifeless body of Horacio Diaz at that location. He was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after 3:30 p.m, the prosecutor said.

Diaz, 61, died after being pinned between a concrete wall and a dumpster. The incident occurred at the facility in North Bergen, according to Suarez. The dumpster was apparently being pushed by a bulldozer.

Santiago Ventura Blanco, 38, was identified as the operator of the bulldozer involved, according to the Hudson County Regional Collision Investigation Unit. Blanco, an East Newark resident, was arrested at approximately 4 p.m. at the scene and charged with Causing a Death While Driving Unlicensed, which resulted in the death of Diaz.

He was released pending his first appearance in court, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Jan. 23.

The Regional Collision Unit is still investigating the incident. The cause and manner of death are pending an investigation by the Regional Medical Examiner’s Office.

A series of safety issues

This is not the first time someone has died at the facility. According the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), multiple incidents at the Lincoln Recycling facility have ended in death.

In 2016, an employee of the facility was crushed and killed by a forklift. Rigoberto Guerrero, 52, was a janitor at Lincoln Recycling. On Dec. 14, around 3:45 p.m., he was asked to help a forklift operator put the forklift’s rear wheel back in the loading ramp.

The forklift operator told Guerrero to sit in the forklift truck and hold the brake while the operator retrieved another piece of equipment to push the forklift back onto the ramp. Guerrero was instructed by the operator to keep his foot on the break of the forklift to prevent it from moving. The operator then engaged the parking break and left to retrieve the equipment.

Guerrero then put his foot on the gas instead of the break, causing the forklift to jump forward and the back of the forklift to move from side to side. He was thrown from the forklift at heights of approximately 3.5 feet, and the forklift fell onto him, the OSHA report read.

Lincoln Services LLC was fined $25,350 by OSHA for the workplace-related death of Guerrero.

On June 2, 2018, a Bayonne man was killed by a payloader at Lincoln Recycling. Angelo Maietta, 31, was hit by a construction loader vehicle at the facility at approximately 10:30 a.m., according to North Bergen Police Captain William Lyons.

Lincoln Recycling Services LLC facility, which was previously operated by Leize Associaties under the name Eagle Recycling of New Jersey, sits on Dell Ave. in North Bergen. Photo by Daniel Israel.

Maietta was closing the back doors of his truck when a payloader struck and killed him. He was making a routine stop at the Lincoln Recycling facility with his brother as part of his work for a junk removal company.

The Maietta case is ongoing, according to OSHA reports.

Three deaths in three years.

Lincoln Recycling was previously operated by Lieze Associates under the name Eagle Recycling of NJ. According to OSHA records, Eagle Recycling had a series of violations until 2012, when it became Lincoln Recycling.

In 2009, OSHA cited Eagle Recycling with 19 violations, all serious except one. Two of the serious violations cited in 2009 remain relevant in 2020. The initial penalty for the violations totaled $25,250.

A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

According to one citation, the facility was in violation due to the hazards of employees being struck by Kubota Wheel Loaders while working in the two areas where the Wheel Loaders operated. The second included a serious citation regarding a failure to lock out the machine’s energy source.

A year later in 2010, Eagle Recycling was cited with nine additional violations. Five were repeat violations. According to the OSHA report, the hazards of being struck by Kubota Wheel Loaders had not been fixed. OSHA hit Eagle Recycling with an initial penalty of $44,600.

A fire broke out at the facility for a second time that year. Both fires in 2010 were attributed to an overloaded wood chip hopper.

In Dec. of 2012, a worker’s fingers were amputated at the facility. Eagle Recycling was cited with one repeat and three serious safety violations.

“This incident should have been prevented by simply locking out the machine’s power source,” said Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA’s Parsippany Area Office. “Eagle Recycling of New Jersey’s continued disregard for complying with OSHA safety standards will not be tolerated.”

OSHA inspectors found that procedures were not used to lock out the energy source of a conveyor belt system while the worker was clearing a cardboard jam, which resulted in the amputation. OSHA cited the company with a serious violation for failing to implement a lockout program to control potentially hazardous energy.

The Lincoln Recycling facility where Horacio Diaz lost his life on Jan. 2, 2020. Photo by Daniel Israel.

In the same year, OSHA fined Eagle Recycling an initial penalty of $70,070.

Offenses ongoing

Almost 10 years later, the facility continues to allegedly violate safety regulations.

The Hudson County Regional Collision Investigation Unit continues to investigate the Diaz case with assistance from the North Bergen Police Department.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Office of the Hudson County Prosecutor at 201-915-1345 or to leave an anonymous tip at http://www.hudsoncountyprosecutorsofficenj.org/homicide-tip/.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Dan Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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