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CENTER LIKELY WILL AVOID FINE IN WORKER’S DEATH

SHARE CENTER LIKELY WILL AVOID FINE IN WORKER’S DEATH

Although no formal agreement has been reached, it appears Centro Civico Mexicano, 155 W. 600 South, won't have to pay a $1,500 fine in connection with the death of an employee who drank wood alcohol kept in a vodka bottle.

Bob Dreman, compliance manager for the State Industrial Commission's Occupational Health and Safety Office, said he held meetings with CCM officials this week and, instead of paying the fine, the center will start employee training programs to stress the proper use of toxic chemicals and promote OSHA safety regulations to businesses and other organizations.Dreman said there still are some details to work out before an agreement is signed, but the center definitely won't have to pay the fine. "They were very cooperative, and they were very positive and concerned about providing protection," said Dreman.

Last March, Orlando Cuellar, the center's board president, filled a plastic vodka bottle with methanol to clean graffiti. Instead of putting the bottle in a closet as directed, Paul Lozano, 16, a gym supervisor, took the bottle home.

Lozano and some friends drank the liquid straight from the bottle on the weekend of March 19 and also mixed it with orange juice. Lozano died, and 11 others were treated for methanol poisoning in the hospital. Cuellar, a University of Utah biology professor, was not charged with a criminal offense but received a letter of reprimand from the university.

The center was fined by OSHA for improper storage of chemicals and failure to inform the agency of the death.

John Renteria, center executive director, said the accident has been a traumatic event for the Lozano family and the family at the center. He said the center has financial problems and paying a fine would be counterproductive and hurt the community.

"We are saddened by this because we supported Paul by giving him a job. Hopefully, we can learn from this experience," he said.