PHILADELPHIA (CN) – Parents say their 29-year-old son died working in an illegal chocolate plant, where he fell into a vat of scalding chocolate and was pummeled by mechanical mixers and agitators.
The parents of Vincent Smith II say their son died in July 2009, two weeks into his stint at a dangerous, poorly maintained, uninspected and unlicensed chocolate-making plant in Camden, N.J.
Smith was feeding raw chocolate into a vat when he suddenly plunged through “unguarded holes” on a platform and fell “into the interior of the vat, which was processing, mixing and melting chocolate at extremely high temperatures,” his parents say in their wrongful death complaint in the Court of Common Pleas.
They say the platform from which he fell was “directly above the vat” and “unguarded,” with nothing to prevent workers from falling into the boiling chocolate, and that “the surface of the platform was covered with cardboard which contained several slippery areas due to the presence of chocolate …”
Smith’s co-worker tried to save him, to no avail, as “the shut-off mechanism was not located on the platform, but rather down the stairs of the platform and several more feet away,” according to the complaint.
The plant should not have been operating in the first place, as it did not have the required Mercantile License, Smith’s parents say. They cite 32 safety problems, all of which led to their son’s death, including poor engineering, poor design, lack of barriers, guards and warnings, failure to inspect, test and supervise, and “illegally engaging in the business of processing chocolate without a license.”
The long list of defendants includes Lyons & Sons, Cocoa Services, Bittong Consulting, the Blommer Chocolate Co., and Blommer Machinery Co. The Lyons & Sons chocolate factory is or was at 701 N. 36th St. in Camden.
The Smiths demand punitive damages for wrongful death and other charges. They are represented by Thomas Kline with Philadelphia-based personal injury powerhouse Kline and Specter.