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Local News in Brief : Death of Worker Under Investigation

The district attorney’s office and federal safety officials are investigating the death of a 31-year-old equipment operator who was trapped for 2 1/2 hours inside a large autoclave at a Gardena aerospace factory.

Leo Lopez of Lawndale died Friday morning inside one of a dozen of the pressurized manufacturing devices at the plant on 135th Street. The preliminary determination of the county coroner’s office is that the death was an accident, although the cause of death has not been determined, coroner’s spokeswoman Pat Smith said.

Company spokesman Barry Wrenn said Lopez was apparently asphyxiated after another employee closed the 22-foot-long, 8-foot-high cylindrical chamber, which is used to harden non-metal aircraft parts. The unit is filled with carbon dioxide gas and heated to 250 degrees, Wrenn said.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is reviewing the incident and procedures at the plant, OSHA spokesman Leslie Michael said.

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