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Cal/OSHA opens investigation into LAX luggage worker's death

Los Angeles International AirportOccupational Safety and Health Administration

State workplace safety inspectors have opened an investigation into the death of a baggage worker at Los Angeles International Airport despite an initial report indicating he had a heart attack.

Based on that report, Erika Monterroza, spokeswoman the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said an inspection was not initially planned into the death Friday of Cesar Valenzuela, 51. However, inspectors visited LAX Monday and "for whatever reason, Cal/OSHA decided there was a need to open an investigation,” Monterroza said.

She could not provide additional details but said the division has up to six months to complete its investigation.

According to the accident report, Valenzuela was driving a baggage tug to pick up a dolly at an LAX ramp station early Friday when he apparently fell out and was found lying on the ground.

Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics found him unconscious and were unable to revive him, airport officials said. A spokesman for the department, Brian Humphrey, said Valenzuela was declared dead at the scene.

Los Angeles County coroner's spokesman Ed Winter said Monday that the death was initially reported to their office as an “auto-versus-pedestrian” collision, with reports indicating that Valenzuela fell out of luggage truck and then the luggage "tug" ran over him.

The final cause of death is listed as “deferred,” Winter said, and could take up to six weeks to determine.

Cal/OSHA spokeswoman Kathleen Hennessy said the worker was an employee of Menzies Aviation USA Inc. She said Menzies was issued multiple citations in June 2013 that included $94,550 in proposed penalties.

The citations include at least two safety-related violations that were classified as “serious” and one classified as "willful serious."

Menzies, which is based in the United Kingdom, did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

A candlelight vigil that will also serve as a fundraiser for Valenzuela’s family was scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday in front of the LAX Terminal 3 departures level, SEIU United Service Workers West said in a statement.

"Cesar’s family is grieving and looking for answers," the union said. "They want to know whether Cesar’s death could have been prevented."

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Twitter: @MattStevensLAT

matt.stevens@latimes.com

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