Orem/Provo Respond to Fatal Hazmat
Saratoga Springs man to undergo autopsy after chemical contact
StoryDiscussionImage (5)Janice Peterson - Daily Herald
Fire crews try to determine the risk to individuals on the scene who remain quarantined inside Intermountain Saratoga Springs Clinic in Saratoga Springs after a man who visited the clinic later died from from inhaling a toxic chemical, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010. IHC Instacare is currently locked down with 24 people inside. PATRICK SMITH/Daily Herald .
A Payson company has confirmed that a Saratoga Springs man fell ill at work Tuesday, but said his death could not have been caused by the chemical he was working with.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the Sabinsa Corporation said Mauricio Lacayo, 30, worked with nutritional ingredients that are not toxic or dangerous. He was asked to measure 10.5 grams of L-selenomethionine Tuesday morning, according to the statement, but the amounts in the container he was working with have been measured and all the material is accounted for.
The samples Lacayo worked with have been turned over to Saratoga Springs police, and Utah Occupational Safety and Health is visiting the Sabinsa Corporation facility in Payson to determine whether Lacayo was exposed to toxic substances at work, according to the statement.
"The substances Mauricio handled for Sabinsa yesterday would not have caused anything like this," the statement reads. "We are earnest in our desire to learn what caused the death of our friend and co-worker, and will do everything possible to aid in the investigation to find the answers."
Lacayo died Tuesday afternoon after leaving work at Sabinsa Corporation feeling ill. Intermountain Healthcare spokeswoman Janet Frank said he began feeling worse at home and went to the IHC Instacare in Saratoga Springs before being transferred to American Fork Hospital, where he died. He leaves behind a wife and three young children, including an infant.
Frank said Lacayo listed selenomethionine as a substance he may have come in contact with, and the Instacare and Lacayo's street in Saratoga Springs were shut down for hours while decontamination crews assessed the risk to residents.
Sabinsa said in its statement that Lacayo became ill at work with "profuse vomiting," and a co-worker asked if he wanted to go to the hospital. Lacayo, however, reportedly told the co-worker that his wife was coming to pick him up and he wanted to go home. The company said Lacayo worked in the quality assurance department and has been with Sabinsa for two years.
"He was viewed as a good man and a hard worker," the company said in the statement.
Robyn Barkdull, public information officer for the Utah Labor Commission, said Sabinsa does not have any history or violations with UOSH and this is the first incident to be investigated there. A compliance safety and health officer was sent to the business Wednesday to begin an investigation into the incident. Barkdull said this incident would have been categorized by the agency as catastrophic, even if someone had not died.
"This would have been investigated even if there had not been a death," she said.
According to Sabinsa's statement, employees at the company follow procedures outlined in the "Quality Manual," and the facility has been inspected by the state for safety and contamination risks. The company also said research is not conducted at the facility. Rachelle Adair, an employee at Sabinsa, said safety materials worn by employees consist of a body suit, hair nets and masks.
Saratoga Springs police Cpl. Aaron Rosen said the name of the chemical came from information Lacayo provided, but officials cannot be sure what caused his death yet. Myriad chemicals have been brought up, and even natural causes cannot be ruled out at this point. Lacayo's body has been sent for an autopsy and forensic testing that will hopefully provide answers about his death, Rosen said.
"It's going to be five to six weeks, likely, before we get anything back that's conclusive," he said.
At the moment, police are treating this case as an unattended death, Rosen said. From here, police will be going back and starting their investigation into the death all over.
"We're scaled back and starting at square one," he said.
Lance Madigan, spokesman for the Utah County Health Department, said investigators from the agencies involved will be trying to determine how and if Lacayo's death was caused by the chemical. It will be important to know how much of the chemical got into Lacayo's body, whether Lacayo had an allergic reaction to it and whether another substance mixed with the chemical to become toxic. It is also possible something else caused Lacayo's death and his interaction with the chemical at the same time was a coincidence. Much of the questions involved will have to be answered by the autopsy, he said.
Lacayo's brother, Juan Lacayo, said it is terrible what happened and his brother was a good man. However, he declined to discuss the incident on the advice of a family lawyer. A Wells Fargo representative said an account has been set up in Mauricio Lacayo's name at the bank.