Probers Lack Clues in Death of Man Buried by Trash


Stymied by the lack of witnesses, investigators on Friday were not able to explain how an Escondido garbage man was buried beneath six feet of trash Thursday at the San Diego County landfill in San Marcos.

“There were no witnesses and, so far, only speculation,” said San Diego County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Larry Van Dusen. “I don’t know if we’ll ever know how he ended up beneath the garbage.”

The body of the victim, 25-year-old Guillermo Ceseno, was discovered shortly after 11 p.m. Thursday by rescue workers who, for 12 hours and aided by trained dogs and sound detectors, had combed by hand and with rakes through an estimated 15 tons of garbage.


Under floodlights that cast long shadows and an eerie glow through incoming fog, one of the estimated 200 rescue workers who had gathered at the site uncovered first the man’s arm, six feet beneath where they first began digging.

Watching nearby were Ceseno’s father and two brothers. The victim’s wife lives in Ensenada, Mexico.

The San Diego County medical examiner’s office said Ceseno died of “multiple body injuries,” the result of being “crushed and buried beneath trash.”

A sonic sounding team from the Naval Air Station at Coronado’s North Island and another from the Los Angeles County Fire Department joined in the futile rescue efforts along with four search-and-rescue dogs--including one specially trained by the state’s Office of Emergency Services to search through trash. It was flown in from Los Angeles.

Ceseno was last seen alive when he waved an “all-clear” signal to the driver of his garbage truck, meaning the truck’s 10 tons of trash had slid out from the hydraulically tilted dumpster, said Jack McDermott, general manager of the Escondido Disposal Co.

The driver, Luis Romero, told authorities that he then moved away from the dumping site to lower and clean the dumpster, and that he did not realize until 20 minutes later--when he was ready to leave the landfill--that his partner was nowhere to be found.


There was only one other truck dumping at the same time as Romero, McDermott said, although other trucks at the bustling landfill were waiting their turn. On a typical day, 200 to 300 garbage trucks dump loads at the landfill.

Fifteen minutes after failing to find Ceseno, Romero notified his supervisor. By the time authorities arrived at the scene 45 minutes later and called a halt to further dumping, another 15 garbage trucks had piled their loads on the site where Ceseno had last been seen, said San Marcos Fire Chief Harry Townsend, who coordinated the rescue efforts.

On Friday, authorities said they were without a clue as to how Ceseno got caught in the garbage.

“I haven’t the foggiest idea what happened,” said Don Amos, district manager for Cal/OSHA, the state’s occupational safety and health office, which investigates industrial accidents. “We’ve had engineers out there all day at the scene, and we don’t have any facts yet.”

The safety officer for Herzog Contracting Co., which operates the landfill, declined to talk in detail about the accident.

“It’s a death that’s unexplainable at this time,” said Mike Maguire.