ZEELAND, Mich. — (May 10, 2014) An industrial accident at Zeeland’s Hillshire Brands plant took the life of a Grand Rapids man early Saturday morning.
Friends and co-workers say the victim, Ricardo Ramos, worked in sanitation and was cleaning plant equipment when the accident happened.
Ricardo’s wife, Dominga Lucas, was surrounded by friends and family and their children, grieving the loss of her husband this weekend.
She said he leaves behind three daughters, one just 11-months old, the others around seven and ten years old.
Lucas said she and Ricardo are from Guatemala originally.
She said she feels so sad for her daughters because they lost a good dad, and her a good husband.
Lucas said that Ricardo was planning a birthday party for their 7-year-old, Cindy Marisol, Sunday.
She said that she couldn’t understand what happened, because he had called her at around 12:53 AM, telling her he’d be home in about an hour, and asking her not to wait up.
She said,” he never came home.”
Alex Hernandez had been friends with Ricardo for around six years at the plant when they both began work there in sanitation.
He said, “I lost my son and that’s how I feel right now. He was a close friend to me, really close.”
Hernandez helped us to understand what happened after Ricardo called his wife, saying he’d be home later.
He said that Ricardo asked to work an additional amount, as he typically did, to support his family.
About 30 minutes later, Hernandez said, something when terribly wrong.
“I was with him before the accident happened,” said Hernandez.
Translator Adrian Gallegos said that the 49-year-old was helping to clean and sanitize belts and equipment on the waist-high conveyor system, where he said meat is packaged with netting.
Somehow, he said it appeared that Ricardo got his hand, then perhaps his arm sucked into a pulley system.
“His arm was caught in the machine,” he said.
“He was on the ground on his knees,” said Adrian. “I told him, ‘Hey get up’, and he wouldn’t respond.”
“When I looked over and I seen him, he wasn’t there,” said Adrian. “His face was colorless.”
“I called for other employees and just asked for help,” he said.
Other workers who saw the accident told Adrian that they thought Ricardo’s glove or clothing may have gotten caught in the pulley and it drew him in.
For its part, Hillshire Brands’ corporate offices would not confirm that it was Ricardo that passed away.
They declined an interview, releasing a statement that said:
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of an employee at our Zeeland, Michigan, plant. We are currently conducting an thorough investigation and are working with the local authorities. We have not publicly named the employee out of respect for the family.”
— Mike Cummins, Director, Corporate Communications, The Hillshire Brands Company
“I got no words, you know, I haven’t been able to sleep every time I close my eyes, it just replays in my head. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be hard going back to work and looking over and picturing that,” said Adrian.
Hernandez regrets not encouraging Ricardo to go home that night, to not work so hard.
“He brought your day up,” said Hernandez.
They said they will be looking for ways to help Ricardo’s family in the coming days.