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Santa Clara County jury charges spinach farm owner with manslaughter in worker's death

PIX Now - Morning Edition 11/8/23
PIX Now - Morning Edition 11/8/23 12:23

SANTA CLARA COUNTY – The owner of a Watsonville-based spinach farming company has been charged with involuntary manslaughter after an worker was killed on the job in 2020.

According to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, a grand jury has indicted Willoughby Farms and company owner, 50-year-old David Willoughby, for causing the death of 32-year-old Carlos Jimenez Cruz.

Prosecutors said the charges stem from an October 15, 2020 incident where Cruz was killed while servicing a 16,000 pound spinach harvester at a field in Santa Clara County. Cruz was strangled to death when the hood of his clothing was caught in a spinning shaft on the machine.

"Employers have a basic responsibility to make sure their workers are safe," District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. "It is a tragedy and a crime when a person doing their job is injured or killed because an employer fails to pay attention to safety."

Willoughby was arraigned Tuesday on the involuntary manslaughter and other charges. Prosecutors said the company and an affiliated LLC will be arraigned Wednesday afternoon on felony charges, including failing to provide adequate training to employees and failing to cover dangerous parts of the machine.

Prosecutors said Willoughby faces a maximum of four years in prison on the involuntary manslaughter charge. Willoughby Farms faces millions of dollars in fines for three Labor Code violations.

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