Brooklyn worker killed in tortilla-mixer horror
By LORENA MONGELLI, IKIMULISA LIVINGSTON and JAMIE SCHRAM
Last Updated: 5:01 AM, January 25, 2011
A 22-year-old Guatemalan immigrant was crushed to death when he tumbled into the mixer at a Brooklyn tortilla factory early yesterday morning, police said.
Juan Baten, 22, often had to reach into the mixer to help the dough along, sources said, but at 2:30 a.m. his hand was snagged by one of the blades, and he was sucked inside.
The powerful turbines broke his neck and killed him instantly, police said.
Baten, who lived with his common-law wife Rosario Ramirez and their 7-month-old daughter Daisy, moved to New York from the tiny village of Cabral six years ago, shortly after his father was killed in a bus accident, family and friends said.
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The tortilla factory where Baten lost his life.
He recently had a premonition something bad was going to happen to him, his friend, Javier Leon, told the Post.
"He told me dreamed of his late father. He said, ‘I had a dream with my father, and something may possibly happen to me in the next few days,''' Leon recalled.
Baten's co-workers, including his cousin, Hector Baten, think he may have been listening to music just before the accident and dropped his earphones into the dough. Then when he tried to retrieve them, he was pulled in, Leon said.
"It’s not logical that he would put his hands inside that machine with blades," he said.
Baten had no time to scream for help.
"When co-workers in the front of the factory started noticing a problem with the tortillas [coming out], they called out, ‘Juan, Juan,'" Leon said. "When he didn’t respond, Hector Baten ran over and saw Juan, but it was too late."
On surveillance video at the factory, police sources say, Baten can be seen putting his hand into the waist-high mixer, as though he were trying to help the dough along, when he was dragged in head first.
Baten worked six nights a week at the Tortilleria Chinantla in Williamsburg and by day would care for the baby girl, his wife said.
"He was happy yesterday. playing with the baby,'' she said. "He called ... while he was at work and said he would see us later. I am still in shock."
According to friends, Baten also worked part-time as a technician for a local DJ. He occasionally suffered from fainting spells, they said.
"He was a hard worker with an excellent future ahead of him," Leon said.
Baten and his wife had been together for three years, and his factory job helped supported them as well as his family in Guatemala.
Mynor Perez-Rojas, a neighbor who grew up in the same village in Guatemala, said Baten regularly sent money to his mother and three younger brothers.
"He was like the father for all of the family," he said.
Federal investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are looking into yesterday’s tragedy.
To date, the tortilla factory, owned by Erasmo Ponce, has no history of workplace violations, an OSHA spokesman said.
Additional reporting by Jeremy Olshan
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