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Girlfriend Visits Tortilla Factory to Mark Anniversary of Bizarre Death

By Meredith Hoffman | January 25, 2012 9:23am
Rosario Ramirez has begun working full time cleaning houses to support her baby daughter since Baten died.
Rosario Ramirez has begun working full time cleaning houses to support her baby daughter since Baten died.
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DNAinfo/Meredith Hoffman

BUSHWICK — Rosario Ramirez thought she'd never be able to visit the tortilla factory where Juan Baten, her partner and the father of her 19-month old daughter Daisy, died last January. 

But on the anniversary of the bizarre accident — Baten, 22, was crushed to death after falling into a dough-mixing machine — Ramirez, 24, who lives in East New York, visited the Tortilleria Chinantla at 975 Grand Street for the first time for a candlelight vigil with friends and advocates.

Her grief, however, was mixed with anger. Since Baten's death, the factory's owner has been cited for eight more health and safety violations.

Erasmo Ponce, who owns the factory, is still contesting the violations, said Ted Fitzgerald, a spokesperson for the Occupational Health and Safety Administration which investigated the site.

Ponce was also found to have neglected payment of workman's compensation insurance.

"Juan Baten died because Tortilleria Chinantla showed nothing but reckless disregard of his life," Daniel Gross, executive director of the rights group Brandworkers International, said at the vigil.

Ponce did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The factory, which distributes its products to 11 states, according to its website, faces proposed fines totaling $64,000. Its violations entail six "serious" infractions, including a lack of measures to guard against "unintended startup of machinery," an absence of training for industrial truck operators, and the failure to acknowledge Baten's death on its injury record.

OSHA also determined that the company knowingly neglected to guard its machines.

Baten, a Guatemalan immigrant, worked in the factory six days a week to support his family, Ramirez said. He had worked there since he was 16-years-old.

"His friend called me at 2 a.m. and woke me up to tell me he was dead," a teary Ramirez recalled.

"He never saw his daughter grow up," Ramirez, who speaks no English and now cleans houses to make ends meet, added.

"She was 7 months old when he died."