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Man, 21, dies in apparent industrial accident at Santa Rosa glass company

Sonoma County Sheriff's deputy Mike Shanahan comforts Thermal Sun Glass Products employee Mathias Howell after a 21 year-old man he was working with near a loading dock was crushed by several hundred pounds of glass to the rear of the business on Brickway Boulevard in Santa Rosa.

KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat
Published: Friday, April 19, 2013 at 11:14 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 19, 2013 at 3:31 p.m.

A 21-year-old Windsor man died Friday morning in an industrial accident at a north Santa Rosa glass company.

He was identified as Hugo Tapia by the Sonoma County Coroner's Office.

The death occurred at Thermal Sun Glass Products on Brickway Boulevard, north of Airport Boulevard, as Tapia was moving large panes of glass, authorities said.

"It all fell on him, all seven pieces," co-worker Mathias Howell said of the heavy glass sheets that were being moved on a cart.

"They were 110 pounds each — at least," he said. "The glass started tipping. He didn't move. He froze, watched it fall."

Howell, who began working at the glass company just this week, said he and the victim were moving the glass to throw it away.

Sonoma County sheriff's authorities described the glass storage device as a mobile A-frame with rollers.

"It appears that during the movement of the glass sheets, the A-frame tipped, causing the glass sheets to dislodge and topple the employee," Lt. Tim Duke said in a statement.

The accident occurred near a dumpster at the back of the large warehouse where the company is located.

Tapia's distraught mother, who works next door at Redwood Empire Food Bank, was consoled by sheriff's chaplains on the scene, as were some of the victim's co-workers at the glass company.

"I think several were working with the gentleman and they were quite upset," chaplain Nola Colbertson said.

The body, covered with a yellow tarp amid shattered glass, remained at the site more than two hours after the incident was reported at 10:38 a.m. Some unbroken sheets of glass also lay on the ground.

The victim's mother, identified by co-workers as Lena Hernandez, reportedly had been out of the office, in Sebastopol, when she heard of the accident.

Lisa Rich, who drove Hernandez to the scene, said the victim had worked there only four weeks.

The victim's father also was reported to work at the company.

"She said, 'My husband and son work there. It might be my son. They won't tell me anything,' " Rich said.

Sonoma County sheriff's deputies and Rincon Valley Fire District were first to respond, then awaited the arrival of investigators from the county coroner's office and the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health. A man who answered the phone at Thermal Sun declined to comment.

(You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.)

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