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Video: Coroner confirms teen farmworker died of heat stroke

A 17-year-old Mexican farmworker who collapsed last month in a field east of Stockton and died two days later was the victim of heat stroke, the San Joaquin County Coroner's office said Wednesday.

Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez collapsed on May 14 after working in a vineyard in the Farmington area for more than nine hours, without shade or sufficient water breaks, witnesses say. After her death on May 16, doctors discovered she was two months pregnant, which she may not have known, according to family. She had been working in temperatures that rose above 95 degrees.

The young woman, an undocumented immigrant, died of "visceral multi-organ hyperthermic injury" due to job-related heat and sun stroke, the coroner's report states.

Vasquez Jimenez's death has sparked outcry about employers who fail to enforce safety regulations in agriculture, including strict laws to avoid heat stress.

Last Thursday, state labor officials shut down Vasquez Jimenez's employer, Merced Farm Labor contractors, after labor inspectors concluded the company had continued to violate heat-stress prevention rules after the young woman's death. Inspectors also said the contractor had falsely claimed on a license renewal last September it had no outstanding unpaid fines.

The company had been fined - but never paid - penalties for failing to have a required written heat-stress prevention plan and training for employees in 2006.

When Vasquez Jimenez collapsed, she was tying grape vines in a vineyard owned by Farmington-based West Coast Grape Farming, Inc. The company supplies grapes to the Bronco Wine Co.

With the assistance of the United Farm Workers Union, the girl's family plan to file a wrongful death lawsuit on Wednesday against Merced Farm Labor contractor and West Coast Grape Farming, Inc.

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