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17-year-old died due to heat stroke

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Posted: Wednesday, June 18, 2008 10:00 pm | Updated: 8:14 am, Fri Jan 21, 2011.

The 17-year-old Lodi farmworker who died after collapsing in a Farmington vineyard in May, died of heat stroke due to occupational environmental exposure in a vineyard, the San Joaquin County Coroner's Office determined.

Maria Vasquez

Maria Isabel Jimenez Vasquez died May 16, two days after she collapsed in a Farmington vineyard after working a full day during a heat wave. When she arrived at Lodi Memorial Hospital, she had extremely low blood pressure and her body temperature was 108.4 degrees, according to the autopsy report obtained Wednesday.

Until her death, Vasquez did not appear to have any medical problems, and she died of heat stroke, the county's medical examiner, Dr. Bennet Omalu, concluded.

Vasquez was two months pregnant but had a miscarriage the night she was hospitalized, apparently due to the extreme fever, according to the report.

Blood tests showed that she had no alcohol or drugs in her system, other than 1.3 milligrams of acetaminophen - found in pain relievers such as Tylenol. That level is well below the daily recommended dose of 4 grams, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Vasquez was initially taken to Lodi Urgent Care by her boyfriend, who told staff workers that she was 19 and had been out jogging near their Lodi home, according to the coroner's investigation.

An ambulance then rushed her to Lodi Memorial Hospital, where she died two days later.

State to unveil worker health info system

Cindy Ehnes, the director of the state Department of Managed Health Care, will be in Lodi today to announce funding for a system to help health workers obtain better access to the health records of the state's farmworkers.

According to a statement released by the Department of Managed Health Care, the $444,470 grant will be used to create a personal health record cards for farmworkers in San Joaquin County using a Web-based technology. The cards will allow health care providers to have a snapshot of a worker's health history as they travel throughout the state.

The grant is being awarded to La Cooperative de Campensina and is funded by UnitedHealth Group and PacifiCare of California.

Source: California Department of Managed Health Care

Investigators soon learned that Vasquez was actually 17 and had spent the day working in a vineyard, rather than jogging.

The incident has drawn statewide attention, and the California Department of Industrial Relations last week ordered Vasquez's employer to stop working. Merced Farm Labor Contractor may only reopen if they can document that they have retrained their employees about heat safety, said DIR spokeswoman Kate McGuire.

The state labor commissioner is also in the process of permanently revoking the contractor's license.

Under state law, employers with outside work sites must train their employees about heat safety, provide them water and have an emergency plan for medical assistance.

When coroner's investigators interviewed Vasquez's boyfriend, he admitted that she had not actually been jogging. Her brother told Deputy Gary Yip that Vasquez collapsed around 3:40 p.m. and could not even recognize her boyfriend.

He was afraid that he would be deported so he followed a manager's instructions to get rubbing alcohol to revive Vasquez, and to tell doctors she had been jogging, according to the coroner's report.

The state is continuing its investigation and McGuire said she could not comment as it is ongoing. Such cases usually take two to three months to complete but can take up to six months, she said.

Vasquez's memorial service in Lodi drew hundreds of people, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

On Wednesday, Vasquez's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Merced County Superior Court against the farm labor contractor, its operator and the vineyard where she was working, the Associated Press reported.

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com.

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  • posted at 1:55 pm on Thu, Jun 26, 2008.


    Lodian, the mom sent her here to drop her anchor baby and while she is here, to make money and send it home to Mexico.Now the mom wants to sue??? Something is very wrong here.

  • posted at 7:04 am on Wed, Jun 25, 2008.


    Bottom line... Where's the parents?

  • posted at 4:11 am on Wed, Jun 25, 2008.


    I can't help but wonder if I entered Mexico illegally and something happened to me what would I be entitled to? NOTHING !! This is a plain case of blaming someone else for the stupidity of others. Nobody wants to be responsible for their own actions especially if there is a financial gain involved.

  • posted at 2:20 am on Fri, Jun 20, 2008.


    I still believe that if her boyfriend and her uncle would have taken her directly to the hospital instead of going to the store first, she might have been saved.Actually I cannot believe they even allowed her to work knowing that she had been vomiting for 2 weeks.What were THEY thinking?

  • posted at 8:54 pm on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.



  • posted at 4:12 pm on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    Bravo Sam. These farm workers start picking cherries in Fresno, come to Lodi and go north every year. Some choose to camp out in farmers orchards. Do you think the farmers encourage that? Kind of hard to irrigate when tents are pitched in the orchards. Last week farm workers literally chased the OSHA inspector out of the orchard, but you don't hear about that. Now OSHA wants shade tents set up around the cherry orchards! What about the shade of the trees? Nobody refused water to this young lady. She used poor judgement, plain and simple. It's a shame.

  • posted at 12:41 pm on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    Sorry, but this girl was sick, scared and stupid. You cannot force someone to work in the fields. You think we have whips??? She was throwing up for 2 weeks and it is the farmers' fault???Please, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. The farmer was suppose to force water down her throat every half hour??? GIVE ME A BREAK.Blame the Mexican government for not giving her an opportunity to work. Put the blame where it belongs. The illegal worker wanted to drop her anchor baby here without being detected. Of course it is the farmer's fault. We should have welcomed her whole family here and given them all a free hand out. WTF.

  • posted at 12:25 pm on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    Tom, the workers that have green cards and really want to work do NOT want to join a union. They want to work through harvest and go home.The ones here that do NOT want to work, want the union. They want $20 an hour for doing nothing.Go ask a farm laborer. They love talking and sharing their stories.

  • posted at 12:22 pm on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    Tom, we now use the crews sent by our packing shed. They provide porta potties and water... and we always have tons of water on hand too. I cannot even imagine someone working sick in our orchard. The crews we use would never allow a child to work... I cannot even imagine them being so heartless as to ignore a sick adult. I think the funniest fiasco was last year when people from the state stopped and went through our orchard trying to stop the pickers to give them pamphlets on freebies from the state. Our workers were SO annoyed and insulted by the interruption. It was funny.

  • posted at 12:13 pm on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    Tom, I remember those days when we hired the same crew every year. They had green cards and literally moved in with us while they picked for us. We had a huge garage with cots. We had a bathroom with showers (indoors) just for them. We also had a fully equipped kitchen for their use. They were awsome and we shared many a meal. They worked all the way up through Washington for 4 months and then loved returning home to vacation for 8 months. I loved working and living side by side with them for the week they were here.

  • posted at 9:26 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    You go to all these little farming towns and there is no decent housing for these workers anymore, so they have to make due. The farmers can't help or they will get sued, so they stay out.I don't condone the illegal immigration into this country, but I have eaten the tortillas in the strawberry fields with some of the hardest working people in the world. There are so many issues, but the biggest blame is on the govt. They created this tragedy with this young lady. Her death is the fault of the govt laws

  • posted at 9:23 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    Cont. The contractors then pop up under a new name a couple weeks later and start all over again. The farmer then gets punished when the contractor doesn't pay the taxes or carry the insurance. The govt knows where the land is, so they go after the farmer because they can't find the contractor.I have seen this game played for years. The underground economy of farm labor is horrible. Go to Huron during the lettuce harvest and look at all the people sleeping in cars and not having a place to bath.

  • posted at 9:19 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    Hispanic Farm Labor Contractors have done more harm to migrant farm workers (legal and illegal) than any farmers ever have. Farmers used to provide housing, bus rides, and meals. Then the labor unions got involved and forced the farmer to cut all those services (yes - they charged for them, but usually a fair amount). The farmer had no way to go but to the Contractors. The contractors will play hide and seek with the govt on insurance, taxes, etc. When the govt catches up, they go underground leaving the workers in the cold.

  • posted at 9:13 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    Its Me - How do the farmers know that the workers are illegal? The labor laws prevent the employer from discriminating, so what do they do when a hispanic shows up with legitimate looking documents? Sam & Alacante - the employer is responsible under law to provide water, breaks, etc. One time we got a $1000 fine from OSHA for not providing paper cups for the cold bottled water dispenser. We had a drinking fountain, but tried to do more for the workers, and got kicked for it. We had to provide cups

  • posted at 9:12 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    sam, you're the only compassionate grower who blogs on here about issues with farm issues, whether it includes growing, cultivation, irrigation or legal workers or their rights. You know the growers in this area that do indeed use those unscrupulous contractors and wouldn't hesitate to take advantage of these situations. The same government that prosecutes them also protects them against certain interests, such as gob's and bribes.

  • posted at 8:43 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    Yes, her health - her responsibility - her stupidity. BUT these farmers and farm labor contractor need to stop knowingly hiring illegals. They are contributing to the problem and need to learn they will pay for it.

  • posted at 8:40 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    Workers comp is whats driving compainies out of California. Wonder how that bottom feeder found the dead girls mother in Mexico, oh I know, with the chance for a big pay day he / she would do anything. The girl is at least 50% responsible for her actions, the boyfriend another 25% at least, not much left considering the tab that must have been run up at the hospital in Lodi, where the girl should have been taken first. Not much can be done for her at 711.

  • posted at 8:16 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    Sounds like a bunch of bull. People are tired of paying for these illegals. Stay home!!!!

  • posted at 4:33 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    Sam: unfortunately, illegals are entitled to WC benefits, Her beneficiaries will get the settlement, somewhere around $125K. Mazie: employees do not pay into Workers' Compensation, employers pay. If the employer did not have WC insurance, then the wrongful death suit will be valid.

  • posted at 4:27 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    If I were going to work in a field all day, I would be prepared. Take food and especially water......She is responsible for her own body.

  • posted at 3:53 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    if she was illegal, how can anyone sue the company? she was not legally working or paying taxes. and why did she not take her own water? something fishy going on here.

  • posted at 3:52 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    if she never paid into work comp, i doubt anyone could get anything out of it. she was illegal, correct?

  • posted at 3:24 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    midtowner, workers comp will be paid to who? Her mom in Mexico?People here illegally can collect workers comp?

  • posted at 3:11 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    Workers' Comp insurance benefits will be paid thus the wrongful death suit should be dismissed.

  • posted at 1:56 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    I say drink water when you are thirsty, find some shade if you feel dizzy, and stay home if you are sick.If you come into a country illegally and want to stay hidden until your anchor baby drops, stay out of the fields. I am so sorry she made terrible choices, but her health is HER responsibility.

  • posted at 1:51 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    boonablis, your post is right on.The Record said that the boyfriend took her to the store first. Why not the hospital? The Record also said she had been sick (nausea and vomiting) for 2 weeks. Why did her boyfriend and her uncle make her work? They are the guilty ones.Actually, she is the one most responsible for her own health.

  • posted at 1:21 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2008.


    Huh, illegal working conditons for an illegal immigrant. Now, there is a lawsuit?? Does anybody see anything wrong with that?? I mean I feel bad for the family and all. Isn't that why they come up here to work- to avoid the law??Maybe i'm incorrect in my thoughts



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