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 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.
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.