Truck driver killed when pinned between cab and tomato trailer

A man died Thursday morning when he became pinned between his truck and tomato trailer at Antonini Enterprises truck yard on 10th Street in Modesto, authorities said.

Eusebio Denis-Mejia, 51, of Ceres was an in- dependent contractor who hauled tomatoes for Antonini for at least two seasons, said Antonini co-owner Karen Wuellner. The company hires a number of contract drivers, she said.

"It is a terrible loss," Wuellner said.

Modesto Fire Battalion Chief Hugo Patino said firefighters responded to a medical aid call at 7:35 a.m. and found Denis-Mejia wedged between the cab of the tractor and the frame of the trailer.

He was likely trapped for about a half-hour before someone noticed and called for help, Patino said. Denis-Mejia owned the truck that pinned him and was either picking up or drop- ping off trailers in the yard when the accident occurred, Patino said.

"It appears he got out of the cab and failed to set the brake, or something happened mechanically to cause the truck to roll back and trap him between the tractor and the trailer," Patino said.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Modesto police responded to the accident, as well as the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which is standard protocol anytime there is a workplace injury or death.

Cal-OSHA spokeswoman Kate McGuire said the division will not investigate the accident, because the truck driver was a self-employed contractor. Cal-OSHA has jurisdiction only if there is an employer-employee relationship, McGuire said.

Bee staff writer Christina Salerno can be reached at csalerno@modbee.com or 238-4574.